Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The "Split Gaze" of Refraction: Racial Passing in the Works of Helen Oyeyemi and Zoë Wicomb
by Wiltshire, Allison, M.A., Mississippi State University, 2018, 59; 10843277
Abstract (Summary)

In this thesis, I expand considerations of diaspora as not only a migration of people and cultures but a migration of thought. Specifically, I demonstrate that literary representations of diaspora produce what I consider to be an epistemological migration, challenging the idea that race and culture are stable and impermeable and offering instead racial and cultural fluidity. I assert that this causal relationship is best exemplified by narratives of racial passing written by diasporic writers. Using Homi Bhabha’s concepts of mimicry, hybridity, and ambivalence, I analyze Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird and Zoë Wicomb’s Playing in the Light, arguing that Boy, Snow, Bird’s narrative form is a form of mimicry that repeats European and African literary traditions and subverts Eurocentrism, while Playing in the Light is a “Third Space” in which to accept notions of the non-categorical fluidity of race. Through this analysis, I draw particular attention to Oyeyemi’s and Wicomb’s unique abilities to refract notions of race, rather than presumably reflect a system of strict categories, and, ultimately, I argue that these novels transcend the realm of literature, existing as empowering calls for society’s modifications of its racial perceptions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Spain, Andrea
Commitee: Marsh, Kelly, Punday, Daniel
School: Mississippi State University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Mississippi
Source: MAI 58/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Literature, British and Irish literature
Keywords: African diaspora, Bhabha, Homi, Oyeyemi, Helen, Race, Racial passing, Wicomb, Zoë
Publication Number: 10843277
ISBN: 978-0-438-31451-1
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