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Cross-cultural women's writing and the politics of magic realism : Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston and Leslie Marmon Silko

Bowers, Margaret Ann (1998) Cross-cultural women's writing and the politics of magic realism : Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston and Leslie Marmon Silko. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94226) (KAR id:94226)


This thesis explores the political possibilities and implications of magic realist discourse in contemporary cross-cultural women's writing. Focussing on the ontological writing of Toni Morrison, Maxine Hong Kingston and Leslie Marmon Silko, the comparative critical approach acknowledges the specificity of their writing to their cultural contexts whilst combining elements from post-colonial, feminist and post-structuralist criticism.

The study demonstrates that in writing the magic realist mode, which breaks down restrictive definitions of reality and truth, has a transformative effect upon readers. By emphasising the ritual and participatory aspects of story-telling, their texts encourage readers to react to the possibility of re-conceiving their world through stories, thereby precipitating political change.

The Introduction provides a brief over-view of the concept of magic realism. The first chapter analyses Toni Morrison's creation of a specifically African American form of magic realism which promotes the expression of an alternative history of slavery, and provides a vehicle for the articulation of African American cultural memory and its ambivalences. Chapter Two examines Maxine Hong Kingston's paradoxical relationship to magic realist narrative. It analyses her resistance to her mother's magic realism which she eventually adopts for the purpose of articulating a cultural memory which will be useful to the current circumstances of Chinese Americans. The third chapter explores Leslie Marmon Silko's use of the magic realist mode to create a text which illustrates the discursive tension between dominant American and Native American cultures. By doing so, she creates a text which merges postmodernist and Native American story-telling techniques to create a text with multiple perspectives and influenced by spirituality. The conclusion identifies similarities between the writers. It reveals that they have created a new form of writing which encourages readers to realise the political potential inherent in their texts in order to re-imagine their world and to counter the individualism, materialism and ultra-rationalism of dominant culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94226
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Morrison, Toni--Criticism and interpretation ; Kingston, Maxine Hong--Criticism and interpretation ; Silko, Leslie Marmon, 1948--Criticism and interpretation
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2023 10:17 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2023 10:17 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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