Mythical heroines : the appropriation of myth in reconstructing female identities in ethnic American literature
Date of Issue2012
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
David Adams Leeming, in Mythology: The Voyage of the Hero, asserts that “the journey of life is the search for the self—for the personal myth which is veiled in the local and the immediate but which, on a deeper level, is but an expression of the world myth” (6). This essay will explore the ways in which female characters in ethnic American feminist literature appropriate myths in negotiating the reconstruction of their individual identities, and by extension their own personal search for the self. I will explore their modes of appropriation through the nature of the myths themselves, and how these myths can become enablers yet also hindrances in helping these characters gain empowerment. The three literary texts being investigated along these lines are Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Bharati Mukherjee’s Jasmine and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. In investigating the dynamics between myth and these women, we will also look at the necessity of a collective experience in constructing a selfhood. In all three texts, the main characters display fragmentation of selves and sometimes a fusing of several characters, or in the case of Jasmine, the embodiment of many selves within one body. The female characters tap into these myths in order to construct viable identities for themselves in order to fight against patriarchy, marginalization, and erasure. The sense of a collective experience is crucial to these protagonists, for even as their stories are explored as individuals, they are always to be understood as microcosms of their lived experiences of the communities they come from.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University