Beginning with the assumption that history and myth shape each other by interfusing fact with fiction, my project examines post-1960s multi-ethnic American women writers' (re)turn to myth as a part of their larger critical interventions in the intertwining relationship between the history of U.S. nation-building and American founding myths. I propose a term “critical mythogenesis” for the double act of critiquing the hegemonic myths of U.S. nation-building and creating alternative myths of America performed in exemplary texts such as Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, Toni Morrison's Paradise, Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands /La Frontera: The New Mestiza, and Kathy Acker's Empire of the Senseless.
While the demythologizing moves prevalent in post-1960s American studies conceptualize myth as an ahistorical and often distorted and fallacious account of reality that needs debunking, my four subject writers regard “myth” as an effective narrative strategy that moves beyond unmasking. Capitalizing on myth's paradoxical performance of shielding the reinterpretation of history and of seeding new interpretations that disrupt established ways of understanding the past, Silko, Morrison, Anzaldúa, and Acker interrogate the ways in which the history of U.S. nation-building is configured into founding national myths that give hegemonic force to Euro-androcentric ideas of America by abjecting non-Euro-American “Others” and their cultures. They also self-reflexively invent alternative myths from the perspectives of subjects formerly excluded from the myth-making process because of their ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. These writers' critical mythogenesis offers politically motivated and creatively different ways of remembering designed to re-write an American history that is narrowly racialized, deeply gendered, and avowedly exceptionalist. In so doing, they transform the conservative appeal of myth as the ideal refuge from history into an understanding of myth as a critical tool for investigating power dynamics among competing stories about America in the construction of American mythologies and histories. Their new configurations of American myths convey transnational views of American histories as contacts, influences, and contestations among multiple nations and cultures.
With a new emphasis on a radical and empowering dimension of contemporary American women writers' turn to myth, my project opens up opportunities to reconsider and reassess the relevance and relation of myth to contemporary literature as forms of social imagination.
|School:||Texas A&M University|
|School Location:||United States -- Texas|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/04, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Modern literature, American studies, Womens studies, American literature|
|Keywords:||American history, American myths, American women writers, History, Myth, Post-1960s American literature, Women writers|
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