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Diaspora, gender and agency in Toni Morrison's "Paradise"

Diaspora, gender and agency in Toni Morrison's "Paradise"

Baillie, Justine ORCID: 0000-0002-0056-9155 (2015) Diaspora, gender and agency in Toni Morrison's "Paradise". In: Diasporas, First Postcolonial Studies Association Convention, 11 - 13 September 2015, University of Leicester. (Unpublished)

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In Paradise Toni Morrison suggests possibilities for the articulation of diasporic identities that transcend racial distinctions and, in the version of paradise that ends the novel, through the evocation of a space beyond the physical boundaries of the nation state. In this paper I argue that Morrison’s post-realist imaginings of a ‘paradise’ that can accommodate marginality without duplicating western rationality and inequity resonate with contemporary theorisations which seek to replace nationalist ideologies with diasporic, but non race specific, forms of ‘universal humanism’ (Gilroy, Between Camps, 2000). The development of the ‘incorporated’ Oklahoma town of Ruby in Paradise is ultimately stultified by the African-American community’s efforts to maintain racial purity and its preoccupation with past traumas prevent the possibility of creative and new social formations. It is the transcendent force of love, rather than separatist or black nationalist doctrine, that becomes the mobilising power for Morrison’s millennial version of paradise. Morrison’s understanding of love remains profoundly political as the marginalised Convent women in Paradise subvert racial, gender and class distinctions through shared confrontations with their individual past lives. From the love born of such disparate diasporic experiences the Convent women forge paradise for the twenty first century, located beyond Martin Luther King’s Christian humanism which, for Morrison, is problematic in its dependence on a messianic presence. At the end of Paradise the alternative, redemptive and diasporic voice of the black Madonna, Piedale, is privileged over Reverend Misner’s vision of a ‘paradise’ or ‘home’ predicated on King’s liberal and progressive Christianity.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Feminist theory, Identity, Nationalism, Transnationalism
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2017 13:58

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