Date

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Adviser

Dawn E. Keetley

Abstract

Beginning with Judith Butler’s theory of gender melancholia and coupled with her discussion of illegibility, this thesis explores the effects of grief that cannot be socially expressed on identity. Broadening Butler’s argument, it argues that cultural prescriptions involving race, class and gender can create environments where false identities are created as a means of remaining legible or within the normative structures. These false identities are sometimes created with varying levels of consciousness of the social forces that demand them. Looking at Nella Larsen’s Passing and Toni Morrison’s Jazz and Sula, it seems that with varying levels of success, women’s relationships with one another can break these false identities and help to create authentic identities by creating an environment that fosters honesty and communication.

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