My dissertation considers the structural displacement of linear time in four novels published during the 20th and 21st centuries by writers of the African Diaspora in the Americas. Through a theoretical framework of literary analysis that draws on post-structuralism and critical race theories, I argue that alterations of linear time in fiction breach the unity of narrative structures. These ruptures, which create what Jacques Derrida calls temporalization, allow characters and readers to consider how African identities, collective and individual, are produced and altered, and how these constructions affect ideas of present time and subjectivity in the texts. The Non-linear plots in these structural and metaphysical temporal sites deconstruct racialized and gendered identities; signs, symbols, and referents in the novels that are dismantled to reveal the arbitrary nature of time and its subsequent associations of meanings. These fictional configurations of time become politically and socially oppositional and help to recast Diaspora histories previously dominated by the West.
The interdisciplinary aesthetics of the African and African American Diaspora has always disrupted constructions of identity, reality, and time, especially when dominant narratives of national identity have rendered Africans and African Americans historically invisible. For example, Du Bois' Black Reconstruction demonstrates the "race of time" and how "time is raced"; Paul Gilroy's Black Atlantic posits from a look to the past that the Atlantic Ocean has been a breach that created a more representative African Diaspora identity; and Saidiya Hartman's Lose Your Mother imagines back to the African Atlantic Slave Trade when all texts and persons to whom she could return to have been obliterated. My dissertation contributes to these discussions through contending that the formation of time is simultaneously a structural device for textual analysis and a methodology for comprehending marginalized identities and experiences, both inside and outside of literature.
The dissertation uses different types of texts, in addition to literature, which expands the importance of reading past-time to critically illuminate the real, political and social realities, and discourses of African Diaspora peoples.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.
May 2013. Major: English. Advisor: Donald Ross. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 184 pages.
Coleman, Taiyon Jeanette.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire: narrative past-time as a temporal site of racialized identity deconstruction.
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