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Towards Postmodern Multiculturalism :A New Trend of Jewish-American and African-American Literature Viewed Through Philip Roth and Ishmael Reed

Author: ZengYanZuo
Tutor: YangRenJing
School: Xiamen University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Philip Roth Ishmael Reed Afro-American Literature Jewish-American Literature Postmodern Multiculturalism
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2001
Downloads: 1440
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The pluralizing of minoritarian literature and its poetics is one of the most important features in American postmodernism. Under postmodern aura the works of many minoritarian writers have been presented to be typical postmodernist narrative, as Toni Morrison, Ishmael Reed, Maxine Hong Kingston, Grace Paley, and Philip Roth. To some extent, postmodernism has become the dynamics for minoritarian writers in their efforts of compromising to the mainstream culture. For these writers the literary heritage left by American modernism and the early postmodern writers was Euro-centered, racial and white male oriented. So in the writings of these writers, they no longer emphasize on the European cultural tradition and the political correctness in the mainstream culture. What they advocate are an open political orientation, a loving for their non-European ancestor, the pluralizing of ideologies, and the combination of their cultural tradition with the mainstream. And thus, what is revealed in their writings is postmodernist multiculturalism, which is also the literary tendency for American literature in future. So the present thesis is a study on Reed and Roth, the most typical postmodernist writers in Afro-American and Jewish-American literature. Through analyzing their relation to their respective tradition, their own aesthetic creation, their revisiting of history, their attitudes toward feminism and their meta-narrative strategy, I intend to say Reed and Roth point out a way for their fellow people facing the multicultural society, i.e., multiculturalism.Using a spatial model, I hope to show, ultimately, how Roth and Reed try to penetrate resistant domains and go where they feel excluded psychologically and socially. Of final importance will be these questions: What are the dynamic relation for Roth and Reed between mainstream experience and their Jewish-American and African-American self? What are their relation to and position in Jewish-American and African-American aesthetic tradition? Do they build their house of fiction from outside the mainstream and their literary tradition or inside? And if from outside, how do they manage this when their relation to Jewish-American and African-American tradition and life respectively are also largely one of a rebel and existential outcast, or do they straddle a line between their outsider’s sphere and the mainstream? As will become evident, defining their footings as novelists in the cultural field of American life has interesting implications for the value of the category "Jewish-American writer" and "African-American writer" when examining the ethnic writers in the multicultural American society today.In Chapter One, "Revising the African-American and Jewish-American Aesthetic Tradition," I argue that Reed and Roth are a part of their individual tradition, but they are beyond their tradition and build their house of fictions outside of their tradition.Reed’s African American heritage is one of heterogeneous eclecticism, which favors multiculturalism. He can rely on a tradition in which folk culture dominates and which offers him historically grown syncretic structures, on which he can base hisIVown system. Neo-Hoodoo is a system in which ideas are treated as myths; they behave like loas, the Voodoo gods quarreling for influence. Reed eliminates static abstractions and instead favors dynamic personification. As an author he favors a pantheon which reflects multiple ideas and rules which enhance multicultural communication. The main issue at stake is representation, but rather than replacing an old set of representations with a new one, Reed introduces a different mode of representation altogether. Instead of replacing the "rulers" who represent the people, he defines new rules for their interaction and tampers with the metaphysical constitution. In order to find a model for a multicultural mythology of the future, he goes back to the pagan past of Africa, Egypt and Greece, and the Haitian animism of the present. Reed’s heathen "true Afro-American aesthetic"

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