Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)

Document Type



This dissertation analyzes the role that female ghosts play in recuperating memory and filling the gaps of official history in the following four contemporary novels: Erna Brodber’s Louisiana (1994), Zoé Valdés’s Te di la vida entera (1996), Sandra Cisneros’s Caramelo: or, Puro Cuento (2002), and Maryse Condé’s Victoire, les saveurs et les mots: récit (2006). The ghosts in these novels disrupt a linear temporality and present a matriarchal mode of remembering, leading readers to reconsider the past outside of the dominant historical discourse. In this way, the novels become alternative histories that oppose the monologic historical paradigm and recuperate marginalized voices silenced by History with a capital H. The novels trouble the boundary between truth and fiction, asking the reader to consider the moral value of art. The reader is obliged to relinquish certain assumptions about history and its creation and processes in order to understand how fiction can be an alternative history. My introduction explores the historical paradigm that these novels destabilize, including a Hegelian concept of history that is based on reason. The introduction also sets up the feminist methodology that drives my analysis and presents the geographic scope of my dissertation. Chapter One explores the tradition of the ghost in the literature of the Americas, especially how ghosts confront traumatic pasts and destabilize a linear temporality. In Chapter Two I analyze Brodber’s Louisiana, which employs two female ghosts to resist hegemonic historical discourse via spirit possession. In the third chapter I discuss ghosts’ affective nature in Valdés’s Te di la vida entera and Cisneros’s Caramelo. The spirit narrators in these novels recreate memory via nostalgia and the affective nature of music. Chapter Four explores imagination’s role in filling the gaps of history through an analysis of Condé’s Victoire, whose narrator is haunted by the ghost of her grandmother and compelled to reconstruct her history. My conclusion draws out the specific similarities between the four novels and further explores the way in which these novels not only use the ghost figure to comment on the past, but also employ it to initiate healing within individual relationships between women.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Morris, Andrea



Available for download on Sunday, June 29, 2025