Date of Award

5-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Shane Graham

Second Advisor

Kerin Holt

Third Advisor

Phebe Jensen

Abstract

Critics of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novels identify her as a nationalist author, as representing the voices on the periphery, and as advocating for multiple voices and perspectives. Critics have also largely dismissed sexual experience as a factor in her representations and have regarded her graphic descriptions of intimacy as mere entertainment or as a means to provoke criticism. I will argue that Adichie does include many instances of sexual intimacy in her novels, not as an escape from the tough subjects that she details, but to express the effects of public problems on individuals. Ultimately, the complexity of sexual experience in her novels demonstrates that sexual intimacy for women can exist outside of the expectation of motherhood. In this project, I will analyze the abundant descriptions of sexual experience in Adichie' s novels Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah to determine the parallels between intimate moments and public turmoil. I will contrast Adichie's novels with other depictions of female protagonists and their relationships to sexual experience, particularly by Igbo-Nigerian women authors. Adichie's work stands out from other accounts because of the variety of sexual experiences, ranging from uplift to caution to fantasy fulfillment, and the noticeable rift between motherhood and intimacy not typical in depictions Igbo-Nigerian women. I have found these unique representations of female sexual experience defy stereotypical representations, which Adichie identifies as an important practice for better understanding of individual variation within a culture. Adichie, while addressing an international audience, directs the representation of sexual experience to fellow Nigerian women as a means of empowering them to have varied sexual experiences outside of expected motherhood roles.

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