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American MythologiesEssays on Contemporary Literature$
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William Blazek and Michael K. Glenday

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780853237365

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846312540

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The Individual's Ghost: Towards a New Mythology of the Postmodern

The Individual's Ghost: Towards a New Mythology of the Postmodern

(p.79) Chapter 5 The Individual's Ghost: Towards a New Mythology of the Postmodern
American Mythologies

Leslie Heywood

Liverpool University Press

This chapter calls for a cultural and literary theory that refocuses on ‘multicultural postmodernism’. It criticizes theoretical assertions that marginalize race and gender, and provides fresh ways of understanding the work of female writers such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jane Smiley, Louise Erdrich, and Kathy Acker. These authors challenge traditional mythologies of subjectivity and individualism while reconstructing fictional representation through ‘alternative myths of multiplicity, connection, collaboration, and context’. Among the perceptive illustrations of this thesis is an analysis of Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres, which shows how mythology associated with the American Dream – based upon competitiveness, superiority and masculine power – is not only a source of destructive violence and a justification for the silencing of women but also a necessary fiction for the female protagonist that may provide ‘the first step on the harrowing road out of ghostliness’.

Keywords:   multicultural postmodernism, cultural theory, literary theory, women writers, female authors, mythologies of subjectivity, Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres, American Dream

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