Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Identifier

2512

Date

2015

Date of Award

11-24-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Concentration

Literary and Cultural Studies

Committee Chair

Terrence Theodore Tucker

Committee Member

Verner Mitchell

Committee Member

Reginald Martin

Committee Member

Ladrica Menson-Furr

Abstract

Starting with the album Where I’m Coming From (1970) through Hotter Than July (1980), Stevie Wonder’s music embodies a hero’s cycle, attaching his voice to myths rendered from the the Black experience. As manifestations of Wonder’s unconsciousness, the myths remind the reader of the Black diaspora and project listeners into his musical dreams. Through his music and lyrics, Stevie Wonder defines Blackness as inclusive, resisting the restrictive notions set by both Motown and the Black Power/ Arts Movements. During his mythmaking process, Stevie Wonder enters into a "supernatural" world of the Black Power/ Arts Movement (hereafter BP/AM) that Motown once protected him. Stevie Wonder engages the many intricate myths and heroes of the Black psyche, inherently unifying the once oppositional stances of Blackness involving gender, class and cultural policy. Stevie Wonder's work is deeply acculturated in the style of mainstream pop music accessibility from Motown as well as activism from the BP/AM, striking a balance between the two paradigms. Taking on issues of poverty and class, Wonder utilizes Motown’s sense of “refinement” as a baseline for his music and political stance of the BP/AM. With every step along a hero’s path, Stevie Wonder encounters and conjures several entities who help him through portals until the end. These myths of the unconscious each have a crumbling archetype on which they are projected, giving the “body” of culture a secure form that can endure the moving process. Working as cradles of identification, the archetypes of Black femininity and the Black child, all subjecting Wonder to conflicting perceptions of monolithic Blackness. Wonder’s passages with, through, and against these accepted cultural norms, reshapes him at every tonal and textual implication. Yet because he is the hero, he as a vessel emerges unscathed.

Comments

Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.

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