Intersectional Discourse in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
Rosemary Ojone Ajibogwu
Nasarawa State University Keff. Nigeria., NG
Rosemary Ojone Ajibogwu hails from Kogi State, Nigeria. She holds a BA in English and Literary Studies from the Kogi State University, and an MA and PhD in literature from the Nasarawa State University, Keffi. She is a budding academic and has applied herself in a number of different ways in research. She believes in humanising knowledge and seeks approaches to literature that account for the most vulnerable aspects of human identities. Her greatest delight is interacting with literary icons and lovers of literature alike.
This paper explores the handling of discourse on categories of identity in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. It construes identity as a flexible and multidimensional phenomenon that defies boundaries imposed by social constructs that tend to categorise individuals or groups into fixed entities. Critical literary commentaries oftentimes situate texts by locating characters within and outside binary structures based on traditional classification systems. These are further propagated in, and forced into, the reading of literary texts. This form of critical discourse is often arbitrary, and thus laden with contradictions. This study destabilises ‘organised’ classes, resulting in collective conflict in a system that does not account for intersections. Above identity framings that assume dogmatic postures, in their respective novels Morrison and Walker refuse to confine characters with certain physical features into fixed groups, and thereby account for other outcomes that may stem from cultural or historical evolutions. Although discourses on race, gender, class, sexuality, and disability have been dislocated over time, the cardinal element that gives rise to discrimination and the imposition of boundaries continues to be replicated in different quarters. The result is contradiction between internalised identity discourse versus shifting contemporary realities, leading to cultural and historical conflicts which undermine literary analyses. This paper demonstrates, to the contrary, that intersectional discourse can be beneficial to the reading of literary texts.