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The loss of the referent: Identity and fragmentation in Richard Wright’s fiction

Maaloum, Mohamed 2014. The loss of the referent: Identity and fragmentation in Richard Wright’s fiction. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis explores forms of fragmentation that characterize black male subjectivity in Richard Wright’s fiction and considers their relationship to the demise of the social anchors and referents which are supposed to allow black men to develop as coherent and whole. It argues that the physical and psychic disfigurement and political and social marginality to which these men are consigned are a direct result of a humanist worldview imposed on them by the two main entities that define them as marginal, namely, white society and black community. To address this relationship, the thesis deploys a poststructuralist approach to question the two societies’ humanist grounding of subjectivity in terms of its conformity to the social whole and its attendant stress on homogeneity and sameness. Wary of this humanist and Enlightenment positioning of the subject as a conscious and thinking individual who is at home with the social totality, the thesis illustrates that the experience of splitting and disjuncture undergone by black men is a corollary of societal modes of subjection that disavow difference and heterogeneity. Probing black male identity from this perspective reveals as much about its decentered nature as it does about the two societies’ humanist view of identity as a closure determined by the ostensibly stable categories of race and community. The formation of black male identity as fractured thus helps map out the instability and anxiety at the heart of collective identities, showing that both white and black societies deny black manhood in the name of preserving their own racial fixity and cultural purity. It exposes the mythical and ideological character of the two societies’ humanist pretentions of safeguarding the values of freedom, equality and the right to agency and shows how such high moral values are politically mobilized in order to maintain racially-sanctioned forms of identity and banish black men as different and inferior.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2016 01:30

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