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The war zone: A dialectic of space and oppression in post-1945 American fiction

Stacey L Berry, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation investigates, through a comparative ethnic analysis, the relationship between violence, oppression, and social space in post-1945 American fiction. The argument moves through four chapters to consider various modes of oppression—combining race, class, sex, gender, and religion—in order to demonstrate how space influences identity and how individuals achieve change within their social spaces. Discussing ethnic and non-ethnic fictions in the presence of one another illustrates the similarities as well as the differences of experience—an analysis which ultimately reveals the power of consciousness that can develop and exist within the marginalized experience. The first two chapters consider how oppressive space influences identity and how oppressed subjects develop the ability to successfully navigate violent spaces of occupation. To establish the relationship between oppressive space and identity, the analysis in the first chapter relies heavily on the dialectical spatial theory presented in Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space. An analysis of the fiction demonstrates that a lack of spatial representation results in a fractured sense of self. Using the concept of differential consciousness, as developed by Chela Sandoval in Methodology of the Oppressed, the analysis in the second chapter examines how subjects develop ways to navigate the fracturing spaces of oppression. The final two chapters consider the process of how individuals produce new social space. The analysis in chapter three relies heavily on Edward Soja’s text, and theory of the same name, Thirdspace to examine how oppressed individuals must move away from the binary driven system that cultivates oppression in order to claim new social space on their own terms—a space of identity production that I call “the war zone.” The final chapter analyzes the role of the writer and the space of fiction within the predicament of violence, oppression, and the production of space to argue that fictional presentations of the failures of social systems are acts of social protest. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Berry, Stacey L, "The war zone: A dialectic of space and oppression in post-1945 American fiction" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3271936.