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Title: Celebrating National Suicide Day : representations of violence and identity in the fiction of Toni Morrison
Author: Nicol, Kathryn
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2004
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This thesis examines the presence and effects of a discourse and history of violence on the construction of identity in the works of Toni Morrison. Emerging from the large body of criticism examining questions of gender, racial and cultural identity formation, and issues of community, memory and history in Morrison’s texts, this thesis suggests that a consideration of the representation and rhetoric of individual, national and textual violence is crucial to an understanding of Morrison’s relationship to black American history, and to the development of her work and the theories of identity it displays. The thesis begins with a consideration of violence as event, as an element of historical discourse, and as effect, taking into consideration representations of violence and its role in identity formation in black American literature from slave narratives through twentieth century political discourses to contemporary black women’s writing. The question of identity politics is discussed with particular reference to feminist theory. Section I focuses on work by Morrison which explicitly contests the stabilisation of racial and gender theories while suggesting the unrepresentability of violence as an event in relation to theories of representation and visuality. Section 2 considers the question of national identity and the identity of the national author by reading Morrison’s middle period work alongside writings on civil rights and radical black politics in the context of black modernity and theories of postcoloniality. Section 3 examines Morrison’s later work through the narration of violence and discourses of justice in Beloved, drawing on poststructuralist critiques of philosophical rationality, and the question of narrative violence in Jazz and the problematics of the postmodern narrative. The conclusion returns to the novel Paradise, examined in section 1, to suggest a development in Morrison’s writing of violence and identity from the unrepresentability of violence and identity to the development of a discourse which subsumes violence under a symbolic order of restabilisation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available