Date of Award

1-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

English (M.A.)

Department

English

Abstract

This thesis project focuses on the notion of the Other in Henry Roth's 1934 novel Call It Sleep. The novel follows David as his family moves to New York and struggles in poor areas. David's inner world is rendered through a style which is reminiscent of a modernist stream of consciousness while retaining the realism of the 1930s proletarian novel. Call It Sleep is a rich text for the study of immigration and multi-culturalism and approaching the novel through the theme of the Other allows for multiple interpretations. The first chapter uses Jacques Lacan's theories on Desire and analyzes David's obsessive behavior toward objects representing purity. Lacanian Desire stems from lack and is transferred to objects that cannot bring satisfaction once attained. Lacan's theories explain David's quests and can be used to understand the 'American Dream' migrants followed as a spatial localization of this unattainable desire. The second chapter looks at Roth's treatment of languages and identification of and with the Other. David is an Other for the two cultures he is in contact with and is either included or excluded by different languages. David's identity as an Other fluctuates depending on which culture he is in contact with. Roth's treatment of language and identities is still relevant as we struggle to find a balance between assimilation and multi-culturalism. The last chapter looks at Call It Sleep from a feminist point of view. In her essay 'Women on the Market', Luce Irigaray analyzes our society's treatment of women as commodities and their exchanges. Irigaray's theory allows for a unique perspective on the transition between a patriarchal society to a consumerist American society v where women are objectified. These different approaches allow for a comprehensive study of the Other in the text and inform on the different manifestations of the Other in our world, between the alienation of our desires, fragmentation of the self, the Otherness experienced in a multi-cultural society and the Othering of women. Analyzing Call It Sleep under these different lenses allow for a better understanding of the relation of the self and the Other for multi-cultural individuals.

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