Dismemberment in the fiction of Toni Morrison

Akhtar, Jaleel (2015) Dismemberment in the fiction of Toni Morrison. Doctoral thesis (DPhil), University of Sussex.

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Dismemberment in the Fiction of Toni Morrison investigates the motif of dismemberment in Morrison’s fiction from multiple perspectives—historical, psychological and cultural. My first chapter on A Mercy focusses on the aspect of historical dismemberment in the context of colonialism and slavery. I look at the forced separation of African Americans from their families and motherland in terms of originary experiences of racism and dismemberment. This entailed fragmentation for African Americans who struggled to develop strategies of survival in the New World.

My second chapter on Jazz focuses on the impact of transgenerationally transmitted trauma. I argue that experiences of dismemberment – such as feelings of amputation and phantom limbs – arise not from physical amputation but from traumatic experiences and the unconscious of preceding generations as the result of trasgenerational hauntings. I borrow from the psychoanalytic insights of Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok in my explanation of phantom limbs in Jazz.

The third section of my project looks at how social order is brought about in the fictive community of Sula through the scapegoating mechanism. I define the scapegoating principle in Sula in terms of cultural dismemberment because of the ways the community members symbolically cut a pariah figure, like Sula, off by performing symbolic acts of violence. The characterization of Sula emphasizes the psychological need for a scapegoat figure who can give an outlet to the defensive tendencies of the community following discrimination.

My final chapter focusses on Morrison’s most recent novel Home, which is about homecoming. In this novel, Morrison continues with her project of imagining a space of domestic and social comfort which is physically and psychically safe in the broad sense of a homeland for African Americans. Home offers a place of salvation from social, historical and psychic fragmentation or the traumas of racism which result in experiences of disruption, amputation and dismemberment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > American Studies
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0185 By period > PS0229 21st century
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 29 May 2015 13:23
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/53849

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