Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in English

First Advisor

Patricia R. Williams


Resisting the negative stereotypes society has forced upon the minds and spirits of African-American women, post-modem novelist, Toni Morrison, has assumed the responsibility of demystifying those characteristics which have shaped her so-called "black experience" in this country. Morrison's primary preoccupation, however, unlike many of those authors who precede her, lies in the ways in which philosophy facilitates her purpose. Creating and recreating the contextual and conceptual frameworks within which her theses exist and countering those images with the antithetical perspectives of subsequent texts and characters has enabled the author to formulate viable, often metaphysical, syntheses to the political, spiritual, communal, and familial phenomena she observes. Paradise, Morrison's most recent novel, is rich with literary techniques which lend themselves to multiple interpretations. Accordingly, Gates' deconstructionist vocabulary, Freud's psychoanalytic methodologies, Eagleton's Marxist notions, and Vll Brooks's New Historicist approaches provide theoretical foundations for unlocking the enigmatic dialectic of the narrative. In fact, many precepts of the aforementioned hermeneutical devices lend themselves to phenomenological translations, particularly the tenets of leading phenomenologists Georg Hegel, Albrecht Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. For the purpose of disclosing the various aesthetic properties and presenting conclusions about perspectives which may have influenced the development of Paradise, this study employs a discourse analysis method and examines the hypothesis: Toni Morrison's presentation of the spirit and psyche of the women in Paradise is a signification of historical intertextuality. This study, then, extrapolates the female psyche and offers a discussion of Victor Turner's notion of communitas and liminality as well as an explanation and application of Gates' theory of (S)ignification. Additionally, it elucidates a phenomenological evolution, the "becoming" of womankind, and, likewise, posits the liminal heroine in Paradise as a transcendental (S)ignification for the female "Self," or "Being."