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A Study of Spatial Narrative in Toni Morrison’s Fiction

Author: HuNi
Tutor: QiaoGuoQiang
School: Shanghai International Studies University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Toni Morrison Spatial Narrative Narrative Space Spatial Image Narrative Strategies
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2010
Downloads: 276
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As a claimed Afro-American woman writer, Toni Morrison (1931-) has been awarded various honors including 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature. Since 1970 Morrison has published nine novels, a short story, a collection of critical essays and several edited volumes. Because of her magnificent body of work and her keen theoretical insights, Morrison has been studied by many English and American scholars with essays and monographs galore on her works in the past four decades. Generally speaking, the main stream of criticism on Toni Morrison has developed from single-perspective-orientation to multi-perspectives-orientation. Various critical approaches have been applied to analyze her works, among which mainly are Feminist criticism, Reader-Response criticism, Marxist criticism, Historicist approach, Narrative approach andPsychoanalytic approach, etc. In recent years, spatial issues have invited critical attention. However, few articles have approached Morrison from the perspective of spatial narrative. Consequently, this dissertation“A Study of Spatial Narrative in Toni Morrison’s Fiction”puts forward the notion of“Spatial Narrative”as a paradigm to explore the types of spatial narrative, narrative functions of spatial images and strategies of spatial narrative in Morrison’s novels. It should be noted that the concept of space discussed here is beyond geographical limitations. Taken social-cultural and mental factors into consideration, spaces are metaphorically understood in the following analysis of their composition and embodiment. Holding the arguments above, the author of this dissertation tries to make textual analysis with the application of spatial narrative, qualitative and quantitative research.The author of this dissertation mainly discusses four types of narrative spaces in Morrison’s novels. Firstly, the physical living space in Morrison’s characters’real world is geographically structured with northern cities and southern villages. Both of the two parts consist of several smaller spaces, such as houses, street, forests, churches, etc. The dualistic structure of north and south is also the reflection of dualistic cultural structure of black and white in America society. Secondly, the entangled psychological space of Morrison’s characters’inner-world is caused by the absence of physical beauty, self-identity, love and freedom. For historical and realistic reasons, Afro-Americans suffer a lot in their life and try to seek better opportunities in northern cities. In the effect of moral relationship, the change of living spaces would make great influence on characters inner-world. Thirdly, the fictional power space in Morrison’s novels is characterized by battles between manipulating and anti-manipulating as well as those between slaving and anti-slaving. As a matter of fact, it is the rich white men/women who control the poor black man/women for their priority in sex, race and class. Fourthly, the sacred religious space in Morrison’s mysterious fictional world is represented by devout prayers and mysterious events. It should be noted that both the power space and religious space are abstract.The author of the dissertation believes that the function of narrative is undertaken by spatial images. Therefore, the spatial images in Morrison’s works are put into four categories: Houses, Kitchens, Roads and Bibles according to their function in narration and characterization.The author of the dissertation also regards strategies of spatial narrative as the key to successful spatial narration. As a result, the flexible strategies in Morrison’s works mainly discussed in the dissertation include those applied in the selecting and switching of places, in the dealing with places and characters and in the dealing with space and time

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