Date of Award

8-21-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Carol Marsh-Lockett - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Zeigler

Third Advisor

Dr. Kameelah Martin Samuel

Abstract

This study employs African American literary criticism and critical discourse analysis to evaluate Julia Peterkin's Scarlet Sister Mary (1928) and Gloria Naylor's Mama Day (1988). These women write stories of African American life on the Sea Islands through different prisms that evoke cultural memory within and outside the texts. Peterkin, a white Southerner, writes as an "onlooker" and “pioneer” of fictional Gullah culture; Naylor, a black Northerner by birth, writes as an "outsider" to Gullah culture, although a veteran of African American Southern heritage. The authors' hybridity produce different literary voices. A close examination of their discourse conveys a coded language pertinent to understanding the historical, social, and political conditions portrayed through their texts. This study will examine their discourse to prove that Julia Peterkin’s, Scarlet Sister Mary, takes ownership over the Gullah experience rendering stereotypical characterizations promoting hegemony; while Gloria Naylor's, Mama Day, resurrects Peterkin’s view rendering multi-dimensional characterizations that legitimize the authenticity of Gullah culture and aid in its preservation.

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