Dr. Samuel Obed Doku

Foreign Author

Howard University

Washington, DC

United States of America


Alice Walker’s novel, Possessing the Secret of Joy shares some similarities with many texts written by black Americans, but it is uniquely different because its settings include an African village where the story begins. The novel is rich in intertextuality as it engages other great American authors like W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, feminist bell hooks; and Austrian psychoanalytical theorist, Carl Jung. Beside its psychoanalytical framework and story-telling pattern with multiple narrators, Possessing the Secret of Joy is also grounded in Louis Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) and Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs) theories, as well as in Antonio Gramsci’s hegemony theory.1 These theories exemplify themselves in the way the protagonist in the novel is convinced to succumb to genital mutilation and how a journey into herself to remember long-repressed memories, eventually results in her ability to liberate women of her village. Possessing the Secret of Joy is a modernist novel in which hegemony, patriarchy, and feminism converge to expose an obnoxious practice in an African village in expectations of dismantling the antiquated tradition that informs the novel.

Hegemony Unbound: Tradition Gone Awry as the Female Body Mimics a Site of Colonization and Decolonization in Alice Walker’s “Possessing the Secret of Joy”