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Speaking in Tongues and Dancing DiasporaBlack Women Writing and Performing$
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Mae G. Henderson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195116595

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 13 April 2021

Gayl Jones’s White Rat

Gayl Jones’s White Rat

(p.122) 7 Gayl Jones’s White Rat
Speaking in Tongues and Dancing Diaspora

Mae G. Henderson

Oxford University Press

Silence and its opposite, speech, are primary attributes of the short stories comprising Gayl Jones’s White Rat. In Pinteresque fashion, Jones’s stories resonate with the plenitude and paucity of language in human relationships in the modern world. Her stories thematize and formalize silence as a stratagem reflecting the breaks and discontinuities in the connections and bonds between individuals. These silences are at times expressed by a recalcitrant refusal to speak and, at other times, by an eruption of speech displacing or veiling that which is often unsaid. The dialectic of silence and speech found in the title story “White Rat” also figures in stories featuring characters who harbor secrets and stage confessions. Left without clear resolution in typically open-ended stories, Jones’s characters rarely experience transcendence. Rather, they inhabit liminal zones of ambiguity, borderlands between speech and silence, reality and fantasy, reason and madness. Jones’s story-telling techniques often frustrate conventional notions of narrativization.

Keywords:   Mae G. Henderson, Gayl Jones, White Rat, silence and speech, borderlands, narrativization, open-ended, secrets, confessions, liminality

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