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Title: Fragmented Identities in selected novels by V.S. Naipaul and Toni Morrison: a postcolonial comparative approach
Authors: Mohamed Mohamed Ahmed, Alshaymaa
Advisors: Spurlin, W
Keywords: postcolonial literature;cultural and narrative hybridity;gender;comparative literature;African-American slavery
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: In today’s globalised world, with increasing cross-cultural negotiations among people of all nationalities, the focus of comparative literature has shifted from traditional Eurocentric canons to a broader space incorporating literary works from historically marginalised cultures and social groups. This thesis places comparative literature in a postcolonial context in order to widen its traditional scope and thereby pay greater attention to the relationship between indigenous and hegemonic cultures. By deconstructing and subverting the traditional Eurocentric discipline of comparative literature, a postcolonial comparative approach helps to reconfigure the boundaries of comparative literature in order to create a dialogue between dominant and marginal literatures. Based on Frantz Fanon’s theory of celebrating cultural identity, this thesis compares and relates selected novels by V.S. Naipaul and Toni Morrison in order to trace fragmented identities in their narratives. Using specific cultural and historical contexts, the thesis demonstrates that African-American literature shares certain characteristics with postcolonial literature as both resist any essential hierarchy imposed by any external dominant group or society. This thesis begins with an overview of its theoretical framework, highlighting the intersectional relationship between postcolonial literature and comparative literature. Tracing selected novels by Naipaul and Morrison, the thesis takes, as a starting point, Fanon’s threephase journey of the decolonising process. In the first phase of mimicry, Naipaul’s and Morrison’s earlier novels represent the assimilation of indigenous people into dominant hegemonic cultures. The second phase is envisioned as the re-narration or re-interpretation of the past and old legends of indigenous culture. Morrison succeeds in asserting that her ancestors’ past is the only way to celebrate a cultural identity, but Naipaul tends to criticise and neglect his past and his original, indigenous culture. The third phase marks the emergence of a revolutionary literature, in which Naipaul and Morrison guide their people to hybridity as a new way of becoming and resisting the hegemonic dichotomies in dominant societies. Moreover, this thesis demonstrates that although Fanon pays little attention to gender in his time, Naipaul and Morrison address gender issues in most of their novels. Furthermore, the thesis depicts Judith Butler’s view that all gender is performative. However, Morrison represents a wider range of gender performativities as a means of resistance to prescribed gender norms, and to patriarchal authority. Meanwhile, Naipaul emphasises phallic patriarchy and gender normativity as tools for resisting marginalisation in dominant societies. Finally, the thesis concludes that when locating Morrison’s novels within a postcolonial framework, her literary production appears differently outside its national borders as any literary text can be re-read and re-interpreted in relation to other literatures.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:English and Creative Writing
Dept of Arts and Humanities Theses

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