Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


This project examines the work of Frederick Douglass, Zora Neale Hurston, Ann Petry, and Langston Hughes, in conjunction with the work of literary and psychoanalytic theorists including Mikhail Bakhtin, Jacques Lacan, and Laura Mulvey. Beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s conception of the “American Dream” as emphasizing a linear, progressive understanding of time and space, I argue that Douglass, Hurston, Petry, and Hughes all reshape this narrative of upward mobility to include the experiences of marginalized communities. By analyzing how each author used multiple genres, including autobiography, parody, song, and poetry, to form a single narrative, I contend that these life stories reveal the failure of conventional literary forms to fully convey African American experiences. While philosophers such as Bakhtin, Lacan, and Mulvey offer compatible theoretical frameworks for my analysis, a reading of black American authors also discloses the limitations of these theories as regards the lived experience of marginalized communities.



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