The present elsewhere: theorizing an aesthetics of displacement in contemporary African American and postcolonial literatures Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Kirkpatrick, Mary Alice
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • The Present Elsewhere investigates the aesthetic traits and political implications of displacement in contemporary African American, Caribbean, and Canadian works. Arguing that displacement resonates textually, I interrogate the degree to which artists purposely leave their works in states of flux. Framed through the lens of nomadic, transitional figures (including diasporic cultural orphans, child clairvoyants, and reincarnated ghosts), this project develops the notion of an aesthetics of displacement -- that is to say, an aesthetics informed by political urgency. Writers such as Michael Ondaatje, Toni Cade Bambara, and Octavia Butler rearrange customary geographic and chronological placements, unsettle narrative lines, and challenge shared histories of oppression. Propelled into active engagement, readers are encouraged to adopt new roles as migrants and witnesses. The political significance of works that displace radiates externally, as readers are directed toward sites of change well beyond the confines of individual texts. By bringing together seemingly divergent traditions, The Present Elsewhere examines the specific historical conditions, cultural backgrounds, and geographic contexts that produce sites of displacement within the Caribbean island, U. S. South, African desert, New Orleans cityscape, and even architectural landscapes. While carefully upholding the distinction and integrity of individual experience, I demonstrate that this aesthetics of displacement, as a theoretical model that engages with literary aesthetics, politics, and ethics, generates new opportunities for comparativist scholarship within and between African American and postcolonial literatures.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of English and Comparative Literature."
  • Gwin, Minrose
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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