Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor's Name

Steven Blevins

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Ana Luszczynska

Third Advisor's Name

Heather Russell

Keywords

Oscar Wao, history, Beloved, empathy, ethics, deconstruction, historiography, Junot Diaz, Toni Morrison

Date of Defense

2012

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis was to contribute to a dialogue that considers the relationship between history, literature, and empathy as a literary affect. Specifically, I explored sites of literature’s transformative potential as it relates to cultural studies and the ethics of deconstruction. Via a deconstructive, post-colonial reading of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I considered how subjects in our current socio-political moment can feel history.

Emerging from a post-structurally mediated engagement with history, signification, and feeling, I argued that empathy, as it is contentiously presented in the context of deconstruction, is not necessarily a reductive or essentialist approach towards relating or “being-with” an-other. Instead, I proposed that the act of reading historiographical novels that take constructions of the Atlantic Slave Trade to task might generate an affective empathy, which could in turn engender a more empathetic relationality and way of being-in-the-world.

Identifier

FI12120503

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