The Missionary Colonist: Narrative Authority in Representing the Subaltern

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Merrill, Jessica Lane
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Middle Tennessee State University
This thesis explores various questions about narrative authority by exploring missionary narrative tropes and how these tropes are contested in the work of contemporary novel-ists who attempt to challenge the dominant narratives that portray subaltern groups. Mis-sionaries have often dominated the narrative authority that speaks about the peoples they encounter and the morality of their cultures. Missionaries open the door to Western ide-ology, create a physical presence that then justifies an imperial presence that allows Western power to seize control. The missionary emphasis on Western education and in-doctrination furthers their impact on these communities as not only is their land taken, their doctrines and ideologies are shifted. Novels such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, and Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions offer alternative perspectives by granting voice to subaltern peoples in an attempt to challenge the dominant narratives controlled by missionary perspectives. This thesis attempts to understand how these accounts are heard and understood and to high-light the continuance of limitation to subaltern speech.
Authority, Colonization, Imperialism, Missionary, Narrative, Subaltern, Literature