Document Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-2017

Capstone Advisor

Himika Bhattacharya

Honors Reader

Carol Fadda-Conrey

Capstone Major

Women's and Gender Studies

Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component

no

Capstone Prize Winner

yes

Won Capstone Funding

yes

Honors Categories

Humanities

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Abstract

This research is a feminist cultural analysis of the novels, letters, and short stories of Zabel Yesayan. Yesayan was a writer, activist, and teacher during the early twentieth century, during the Armenian Genocide, and up until her death in the mid-1940s when the Soviet Union took control of Eastern European countries, including Armenia. This project insists not only on telling the history of an invisibilized genocide, but also on telling that history through a critical feminist lens based on the documented observations and creative interventions of a woman who lived during the genocide.

In many of her works, Yesayan imagines transgressive relationships between people. She enacts feminist recovery work and refusal in her work of fiction, My Soul in Exile, by exploring the intimate relationships women artists develop with one another. She uses similar logics when she imagines the full and meaningful lives people led before the Adana massacres in her novel In the Ruins. Her representations of disability and violence often go beyond the pain narrative that stories about war and genocide typically invoke, and her letters reveal that she understood the social construction of race in the Ottoman Empire. Her recovery work includes testimonies people provide during her travels, as well as her writing about sites of massacre, such as the charred remains of a church where hundreds of people were burned. Her writing imagines, re-articulates, and preserves what people’s final moments might have been like.

Yesayan is also transparent both about the privilege she carries when she interviews people whose families were killed and about her helplessness to provide significant support. By working with and through the contradictions and impossibilities of her position, she takes her praxis seriously, which is central to feminist methodology and epistemology.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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