Date of Award

2000

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

John Lowe

Abstract

This dissertation explores homecoming narratives and the representation of return migration in African-American folklore and in African-American literature written since 1970. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach, sociological, historical, religious and literary criticism are incorporated to examine African-American church and communal homecomings, personal memoir, and novels as extensions of the Great Migration narrative, leading to a reconfiguration of the South as "home." This study includes an analysis of the structural features of the homecoming narrative, including the "moment of return," the migrant's connection to the Southern landscape, the significance of feast, and rituals of homecoming ceremonies. Subsequent chapters explore the decision to return home and the positioning of homecoming as claiming act or as salvation; the negotiation of home by returning migrants; the location of "home" by blacks in the New South; and family reunions and communal homecomings for African-Americans within the contested and non-contested Southern plantation site. Close readings of works by Toni Morrison, Ernest Gaines, Gloria Naylor, Walter Mosley, Bebe Moore Campbell, and Deborah McDowell also reveal ways in which the authors position homecoming and/or reinscribe the figure of the Prodigal Son (and daughter) in the narrative of return.

ISBN

9780493070261

Pages

204

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