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Scholarly Horizons: University of Minnesota, Morris Undergraduate Journal

Abstract

Why does Zora Neale Hurston combine the histories of African Americans and Hebrews in Moses, Man of the Mountain? For what reason does Colum McCann include Frederick Douglass and a Kenyan scholar in his Irish-focused novel TransAtlantic? Furthermore, why does Mario Vargas Llosa create a protagonist that repeatedly compares the oppressed conditions of the geographically disparate Irish, Congolese, and Peruvian peoples in Dream of the Celt ? All three of these biofiction authors close the gaps between cultures and continents in order to synthesize the experience of the oppressed on a global level. Moving beyond the genre capabilities of historical novel and biography, these bionovels intentionally blur traditionally separate racial and cultural histories and therefore blunt the colonial tool of ethnic division. For example, by combining the struggle of African Americans and Judaic people, Hurston is able to construct a dual-temporal truth in which the oppression of the Judaic-Blacks by ancient Egyptians alludes to these two groups’ current oppression by the Nazis and the Jim Crow South in Hurston’s time. The similarities of the Jewish and the African American struggle justifies their fusion. The first part of this paper will look to Dr. Michael Lackey’s groundbreaking work Biographical Fiction to examine why biofiction’s postmodernist appropriation of historical figures is an effective means for refuting ethnically singular narratives of history. My main argument is that by synthesizing historically oppressed peoples, these three biofiction authors are able to analyze and dismantle history’s ethnic dividers in order to construct a more globalized experience of oppression.

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