Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Abstract

This thesis critically examines the intersection of contemporary feminist theory and the work of three authors, Samuel Richardson, Mary Gordon, and Toni Morrison, representing classic and contemporary literature. In pursuing extended comparative readings of Richardson’s Clarissa, Gordon’s Final Payments, and Morrison’s Beloved as case studies, this project observes the various ways in which cultural and material circumstances organize relationships among writing, women's bodies, food, and identity. One facet of the argument concerns the concept of the “abject,” understood to be a “process which begins at the moment of self-realization in the pre-oedipal dyad.” This is applied to all three narratives as a means to further discuss identity with regard to each protagonist. The project juxtaposes the physical instances and metaphors of imprisonment which cause a breakdown of the heroines' language and identity, which, in turn, results in both literal and metaphorical cannibalism. Explanatory material on eating and relationship formation, as foundational to identity, is offered prior to the literary discussion that follows.

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