Shunned space theory as a holistic framework for understanding characters and communities in selected writings of Jesmyn Ward, Richard Wright, and William Faulkner

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University of Alabama Libraries

This project details how to apply a new framework I term Shunned Space Theory for exploring the literary and cultural accomplishments of marginalized communities. Specifically, I explore the pivotal role of shunned space in selected writings by three Mississippi authors: Jesmyn Ward, Richard Wright, and William Faulkner. By definition, a shunned space consists of land and resources considered unfit or undesirable by the larger, mostly White society, and therefore reserved for marginalized communities. Such venues are subject to periodic invasion by the dominant society, higher crime rates, increased poverty, scarcity, and political exclusion. Nevertheless, shunned spaces are also portals of cultural productivity enacted by residents to stave off both individual and collective fragmentation by creating enduring communities. I argue that Shunned Space Theory offers a comprehensive lens for understanding African American literature by linking individual characters to their communities, the enfolding landscape, and the racialized systems surrounding them. My analysis of shunned spaces spreads across race, gender, and environment. Although Ward and Wright spent much of their childhood in shunned spaces, their interpretation of this experience differs dramatically. On the other hand, Faulkner deploys careful observation and strong empathy in his presentation of shunned space despite living his entire life in a privileged arena.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
African American studies, American literature, Literature