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Politics of Love: Sisterhood in Toni Morrison’s Fiction

Author: LuQuanZhi
Tutor: JinHengShan
School: East China Normal University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Morrison sisterhood race patriarchy politics
CLC:
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2011
Downloads: 107
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Abstract


As an African-American writer, Toni Morrison (1931-) writes with political agenda and literary commitment through her practice of language. In her Nobel lecture delivered in 1993 as well as elsewhere, the prize winner, using the "bird-in-the-hand" (21) as a metaphor for language, constantly warns us—both writers and readers—of the consequences and potential violence this agency might generate due to either mindlessness or state censuring.Though never acknowledging openly to be a feminist writer, nevertheless, Morrison provides stage for black females, who are not only foregrounded but predominant in her novels, in an effort to challenge and subvert the stereotypical figures, arguably "the mammy, the matriarch, the welfare mother, and the Jezebel" black women were subjected to throughout the history by dominant groups to justify and legalize their oppression and discrimination. Being the spokeswoman for her race, Morrison then undertakes the mission to reconstruct the (hi)stories she believes in the way they should or could be. By portraying the female bonds in her works, the author skillfully interwines the representation of the sisterly love between couples of females with her political mission and agenda in her works, playing the trumps of race, gender, and class with her virtuoso performance.This thesis thus mainly concentrates on the representation of sisterhood in the social context of slavery, racism and sexism in Toni Morrison’s novels, a theme rarely given full recognition, critique or discussion. It has a dual purpose:it is intended to analyze how female bonds serve as a haven for the black women in a racist and sexist world; it also aims to offer some insights into Morrison’s political mission to reconstruct both the history and stories of black sorority in a white-and-male-dominated world by using narrative as an arena for political struggle.Basically, this thesis is composed of six parts—the Introduction, the four Chapters constituting the bulk of the paper, and the Conclusion. The Introduction part first summarizes the representation of women and female bonds in Western literature, then reviews the criticism of sisterhood in Morrison’s works both at home and abroad in an effort to illustrate the political stance Toni Morrison takes to destabilize the white-male domination through her extraordinary narrative power and bravura performance.Chapter one, focusing on Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Love, endeavors to illustrate how sisterhood provides for little black girls both shareable experiences and a harbor against bullying and molesting; moreover, this chapter also tries to explore the early imprint of color in shaping their identity and psyche. Chapter two offers insight on the undue withering of the budding sexuality of black girls in her novels and the perils sisterhood might encounter in a world where slavocracy, racism, and patriarchy were, or perhaps are still, rampant. In Chapter three, we will discuss the alliance forged between females who attempt to cross the boundries of race, class, and age, analyzing with depth the reasons why sisterhood sometimes falls short of its full potential and slides into seemingly irreconcilable conflicts and irreparable hurts; and Chapter four thus undertakes to disclose the possible cures Morrison prescribed in healing the trauma as the aftermath of female friendship crisis.The last part, Conclusion, mainly draws attention on the subversive strategies Morrison uses to carry out her political mission and literary commitment. As a first-rate raconteur, Morrison recasts some second-hand stories or hearsay into engaging novels through her extraordinary imagination and narrative skills, remaking to some extent the history buried alongside with the truth. Through her exposure of the "unspeakable things" and her "politics of the heart" as termed by Andrea O’Reilly, Morrison is strongly convinced that the trauma could be cured, and the lost sensibility regained, her political commitment as a writer thus fulfilled. In short, by playing the politics of gender, race, and class together, the author succeeds in destabilizing, or at least in challenging the white-and-male domination ideologically and intellectually, thus heralding the advent of the second Renaissance of Afro-American literature.

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