Lois-Ann Yamanaka's women : transcending the spaces of bodily contamination

Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor's Name

Bruce Harvey

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Marilyn Hoder-Salmon

Third Advisor's Name

Heather Andrade

Date of Defense



This thesis examines key texts by Lois-Ann Yamanaka associated with women’s subservience in post-colonial Hawai’i. Her fiction situates the body naturalistically, but also uses the body to convey themes of spiritual redemption.

My analysis concentrates on three of Yamanaka’s novels: Blu’s Hanging (1997), Heads by Harry (1999), and Father of the Four Passages (2001). These three works thematically move from an emphasis on the fragmented body and segregated female, to a critique of colonialism, to an intangible spirituality where the characters reach physical and spiritual wholeness, and the dysfunctional family finds unity.

In each, Yamanaka uses sensory language that reinvents and reforms the female body, employing narrative techniques which move beyond traditional writing structures. I argue that these novels utilize brutal Images to highlight abjection, but that these images provide a means to imagine a space of spiritual healing and renewal.



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