Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.

Keywords

Folklore, Cultural retention, Ancestor, Fashion theory, Ornamentation

Abstract

I investigate the function of dress as it relates to cultural retention in Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow and Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, drawing upon the work of fashion theorists Joanne Entwistle, Alison Lurie and Anne Hollander. My examination of the two novels is informed by several excellent scholarly works which hold that characters' well being is determined by the extent to which they connect with their folkloric roots, the central message in both Ceremony and Praisesong for the Widow. I build on this discourse by demonstrating that the novels' consistent attention to clothing is a device that situates characters psychologically in their spiritual journeys homeward, from fragmented self identity to incorporeal contentment. My investigation of the unique treatment of clothing and adornment as metaphor for the novels' crises finds that the images of dress in characters' internal and external worlds heightens the conflict and illustrates the resolution in both novels.

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