Date of Graduation

12-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Constance Bailey

Committee Member

John DuVal

Second Committee Member

Casey Kayser

Keywords

Americanah, Annonymity, Black Cultural Performance, Blogging, Signifying, world wide web

Abstract

Adichie’s Americanah is a novel that elevates anonymous blogging into black cultural performance. The novel follows a young Nigerian, Ifemelu, who arrives in the United States on a student visa and depicts her stressful confrontation with racism in post-slavery America. Through beginning a blog, Ifemelu voices her experiences as a black woman and immigrant in ways that renew the concerns of James Baldwin, an author whom she studies closely. Like Baldwin, her style blends humor and techniques of persuasion that trace to traditional oral folklore. Ifemelu’s success rests partly on Adichie’s construction of her as a character of good ethos, an individual whom both readers of her blog, and readers of the novel, are encouraged to trust. Her use of a pseudonym, the non-American black, offers her sanctuary to decipher an identity for herself as a migrant, and creates space for kinship with others who value her writing as psychological and spiritual support. This updates the socially engaged practice that Toni Morrison has recommended as part of a framework for her own writing, a practice that engages with the conflict between the public and private lives of artists. Although philosopher Martha Nussbaum and others have argued that online anonymity should be eradicated, Ifemelu’s story illustrates a contradictory case in which the cultural traditions of the formerly colonized benefit from the privacy of anonymity. Further, Americanah exemplifies how the web, which was built to be nonhierarchical, is a place where black art flourishes, and that the web is a natural tool for politically engaged creativity.

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