Cultural mythology and anxieties of belonging : reconstructing the "bi-cultural" subject in the fiction of Toni Morrison, Amy Tan and Annie Proulx
The thesis considers the construction of cultural identity in the writings of Tom Morrison, Annie Proulx, and Amy Tan. It consists of three chapters, one dedicated to each of the writers. In the examination of these writers the focus is upon the construction of the "bicultural" subject in the contemporary United States. The paradigm of analysis is constructed through discourses of space, landscape and physical geography. The first chapter is devoted to Toni Morrison and is divided into two sections dealing with the novels Beloved and Jazz. The first section examines how spatial discourses disrupt binaries that marginalise the black community. It concentrates upon the location of the "porch" in the novel and parallels it with the "porch" as a black spatial icon. The Jazz section examines the idealised space of the City. It focuses on the material layout of American Cities and discusses its relationship to constructions of American cultural identity. The debate is used to highlight how the geographical marginalisation of communities parallels their cultural alienation. The second chapter is split into two sections, the first focuses upon The Joy Luck Club, the second concerns The Kitchen God's Wife. Tan's work is discussed in relation to cultural geographic debates about mythic geography. It deals with the different ways in which Tan's texts try to palliate cultural anxieties about "belonging" by constructing a culturally soothing mythic location. An idealised version of the Chinese-American community is sustained through her constructions of both San Francisco and China, which she employs and negotiates in different ways in the two texts. The third chapter examines three Proulx texts, Postcards, Accordion Crimes, and Close Range Wyoming Stories. The chapter explores the different ways these texts negotiate cultural belonging in relation to geographic migration. Postcards is considered in relation to the literary discourse of migration. In Accordion Crimes the employment of similarly positivist conceptions of the construction of a "home" in North America is examined. The final section examines the problematic nature of "location" as both geographically and textually soothing. The Epilogue suggests the possible extension of the thesis and foregrounds the importance of the materiality of spatial construction to the cultural anxieties the thesis examines.