Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Laura Nicosia

Committee Member

Sharon Lewis

Committee Member

Monika Elbert


This thesis explores the complex yet indispensable relationship that exists between the Black female character and place in Gloria Naylor’s novel The Women of Brewster Place and Toni Morrison’s novel Sula. The representation of place, both landscape and homeplace, are examined through a close reading of language, particularly through metaphorical elements. Naylor and Morrison employ metaphorical elements to not only emphasize each woman’s intimate engagement with her sense of place, but also to acknowledge the transformative powers that place wields over each woman’s identity. For each woman that has been suppressed and silenced within a patriarchal society, the home becomes a sanctuary that incites both self-expression and resistance. This thesis analyzes specific moments where each woman has both the desire and the agency to transform her home into a sanctum that accepts her, heals her, and fosters an awakening within her spirit. Additionally, this thesis unearths paradoxes and investigates their role within each scene. Naylor and Morrison skillfully incorporate several paradoxical images and contrasting emotions that add depth to each woman’s evolving identity. Since each woman claims her own space within the home, the paradoxes become even more alluring as they become integral components of the domestic atmosphere that enables each woman to experience a catharsis. This thesis also uncovers the historicity that embodies the Black woman’s relationship with the homeplace. This thesis will investigate various spaces of the home that highlight the symbiotic relationship that exits between women and their sense of place, such as the porch, the bathroom, and the pantry. Additionally, the representation of the kitchen is a crucial setting for the Black women as it is transformed into a space of transcendence. Historically, the kitchen space has been imbedded in Black female culture; this thesis explores the way in which the kitchen space enables subconscious desires to emerge and encourages self-expression in the forms of domestic ritual. Most importantly, this thesis recognizes the way in which Naylor and Morrison shatter the mores of domestic oppression. Naylor and Morrison recast the homeplace into a sphere that not only promotes self-empowerment, but that also equips each woman with the tools to locate her authentic voice.

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