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Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary CultureThe Backward Gaze$
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Judith Fletcher

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198767091

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198767091.001.0001

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The Wanderer’s Descent

The Wanderer’s Descent

The Underworlds of Diaspora

Chapter:
(p.147) 4 The Wanderer’s Descent
Source:
Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary Culture
Author(s):

Judith Fletcher

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198767091.003.0004

Chapter 4 outlines how a descent to the underworld can symbolize experiences of diasporic populations, including refugees, enslaved peoples, exiles, and immigrants. An African-American man in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon experiences an Odyssean Nekyia, and connects with his family’s past. Amy Bloom’s Away makes parallels between the story of a Jewish refugee to America and the myth of Demeter and Persephone. Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet features Orpheus as a rock star whose descent is structured as a passage from India to America. Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder refers to the Orpheus story to address issues of deracination, but also suggests deeper intertexts that invite a critique of corporate plundering of the Amazon. With deliberate citations of ancient texts, these authors exploit the dialectic between home and the underworld to explore issues of diaspora, immigration, exile, assimilation, and nostalgia.

Keywords:   Song of Solomon, Salman Rushdie, underworld as diaspora, State of Wonder, Ann Patchett, Toni Morrison, Amy Bloom, underworld adaptation

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