Refutation of the Enlightenment Concept of “Self” in Toni Morrison’s “Sula”

By Sima Farshid.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

As a post-modern novel, Toni Morrison’s “Sula” (1973) defies the concept of the “self” presented by the Enlightenment thinkers–a comprehensible, integrated being, since its protagonist is an inexplicable, splintered figure. Unlike the reasonable, self-controlled figures admired by the dominant discourse of modernity, she is a baffling, impulsive girl/woman many of whose actions seem to be volatile and illogical. There are several paradoxes in the novel, but its focal paradox is lack of a center in its central character whose perpetual, though illusory, desire to obtain wholeness of ego impels her to search for her lacked “other half” all through her short life that eventually turns into a dismal tragedy. That drive forces her to cling to another girl in her adolescence and then to a man in her adulthood–both acting as the fragments of her splintered “self”. By portraying such a perplexing, splintered character, Morrison refutes the concept of the “self” offered by the Enlightenment discourse.

Keywords: The Enlightenment “Self”, Incomprehensibility, Volatility, Illusive Wholeness

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.13-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 209.509KB).

Dr. Sima Farshid

Assistant Professor, English Department , Faculty of Literature, Islamic Azad University, Karaj Branch, Karaj, Alborz, Iran (Islamic Republic of)

I hold a PhD degree in English literature and have been teaching for 15 years at the Islamic Azad University, Karaj Branch. I have written several articles which have been published in national and international academic journals, have translated some books from English into Persian, including Raman Selden’s Reading Theory and Practicing Literature and Saul Bellow’s Herzog, and have compiled literary terms in a sort of dictionary.