The Ghosts of Lilith: Haunting narratives of witness and the postcolonial poetry of Shivanee Ramlochan



Darroch F & Jasper A (2021) The Ghosts of Lilith: Haunting narratives of witness and the postcolonial poetry of Shivanee Ramlochan. Literature and Theology, 35 (4), pp. 433-448.

This article discusses some of the themes and implications of Lilith’s story. After setting the figure of Lilith in an historical context of Sumerian demonology and first millennium CE Babylonian midrash, we reflect on the current critical, feminist, postcolonial, and poetic up-take of this curious tale of Adam’s first wife. We consider how Lilith’s story appears in these readings, woven through migrated narratives of loss and trauma drawn from widely different communities, as a thread of ghostly witness to suffering and resilience within the everyday lives of women and others who have been bound by heteropatriarchal and colonial tropes and traditions, to the materiality of the body in birth, vulnerability to violence and death. Briefly illustrating Lilith as expressed in George MacDonald’s Lilith (1895), we draw on the work of Gayatri Spivak and Mayra Rivera to explore contemporary traces of Lilith’s presence in the writings ofAlicia Ostriker and, especially, Trinidadian poet, Shivanee Ramlochan. In reference to Ramlochan’s debut collection, Everyone Knows I am a Haunting (2017) we consider how Lilith is used to challenge these limiting tropes and traditions, giving value to complex identities and material existences that resist efforts to impose silence or contest memories that trouble and unsettle.

Lilith; Feminism; Haunting; Witness; Postcolonial; Poetry

Literature and Theology: Volume 35, Issue 4

Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online15/01/2022
Date accepted by journal15/01/2022

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Dr Fiona Darroch

Dr Fiona Darroch

Lecturer, Literature and Languages - Division