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A Poetic Representation of Marginalized African Americans

Author: LiZuo
Tutor: ZouZuo
School: Zhejiang Technology and Business University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Toni Morrison The Bluest Eye Beloved Song of Solomon African American criticism race psychology politics poetics
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Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2010
Downloads: 133
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Abstract


Toni Morrison (1931-) is one of the most distinguished African American women writers of the 20th century. In 1993, she won the Nobel Prize in literature for her poetic language and great contribution to revealing the most important racial aspect in America. Since 1980s, numerous critics have explored the thematic concerns as well as the aesthetic qualities of Morrison’s novels, but not many of them pay close attention to Morrison’s writing in the light of African American criticism.African American criticism combines politics and poetics in interpreting African American literature. Adopting this critical approach, I attempt to study what Morrison’s works can reveal about the specific African American culture as well as the politics and poetics embodied or exhibited in her works.In this thesis, I choose The Bluest Eye, Beloved and Song of Solomon for study, each of which is a vivid expression and subtle exploration of the psychological effects, politics and poetics of African Americans. The Bluest Eye presents the unique psychological suffering of African Americans from ethnic discrimination, which results in the double consciousness of the black--- the black nurture hatred toward their own culture and finally lose their original identity. The psychological effects play a crucial role in leading to Pecola’s, the protagonist of The Bluest Eye. failure of coming of age. The particular psychological suffering of African Americans must have its cause in the low social and political status of the black, so I attempt to analyze Beloved to expose the inferior political status of the former slaves, for this novel reveals the tremendous horror of slavery, which refers to the hegemonic oppression of the white dominant culture on the subaltern culture and the physical as well as psychological consequences of the political suppression. The most important peculiarity of African American literature is that the low political status of the black is always embodied in the African American poetics and Morrison has made great achievement in writing technique and literary language. Therefore, I will investigate the black vernacular in Song of Solomon, as well as its political implications.This thesis consists of five parts. Chapter 1 is a general introduction to Toni Morrison and her works and an explanation of the methodology. Chapter 2 focuses on the unique psychological effects of racism on the black, especially Pecola’s failure of coming of age. This part also discusses Pecola’s family and surrounding community’s contribution to her failure, which is also attributed to the psychological internalization of racism. Chapter 3 aims at revealing the inferior political status of African Americans through exploring the horror of slavery in Beloved. The novel exposes the white dominant culture’s hegemony over the black culture by distorting a real history of the black and imposing physical and psychological traumas on the black. Chapter 4 dwells on the poetic language in Song of Solomon, focusing on the two elements of the black vernacular:orality and rituals of manhood, which has been endowed with lots of political power to overthrow what the standard American English stands for. The last chapter summarizes the whole thesis.

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