Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker

Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker

Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker

Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker

Excerpt

Drawing largely on narratology, feminist cultural theory, semiotics, and Neo-Marxist concepts of ideology, this study explores the relationship between two conflicting discourses -- one an inscription of race, the other focused on gender -- within the fictional narratives of three Afro-American women writers. I argue that the fictive discourse of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker is often the site of dissonance, ruptures, and, particularly in each writer's more recent work, a kind of narrative violence generated by their articulations of these distinct and often contending expressions of desire.

While perhaps too rigidly implicated in Freudian discourse for my purposes, Peter Brooks's discussion of the relationship of desire to narrative provides a useful framework for an understanding of my project. Arguing that narratives "both tell of desire . . . and arouse and make use of desire as dynamic of signification," Brooks writes:

Desire is always there at the start of narrative, often in a state of initial arousal, often having reached a state of intensity such that movement must be created, action undertaken, change begun. . . . One could no doubt analyze' the opening paragraph of most novels and emerge in each case with the image of desire taking on shape, beginning to seek its own object, beginning to develop a textual energetics.

Elaborating on the role of desire in structuring narrative, Brooks examines the relationship of ambition to desire and the textual dynamics involved in "male plots of ambition."

Ambition is inherently totalling, figuring the self's tendency to appropriation and aggrandizement, moving forward through the en-

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