Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Eric Leuschner
Most readings of Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo come from a perspective that Reed establishes a series of binaries to be dissected. Many of these critics use Jacques Derrida’s theory of deconstruction because they assert that Reed is simply reversing the roles of the marginalized African and the centralized white man. These implications cover most of the major points in Reed’s work: the West vs. the East, Christianity vs. Hoodoo, white vs. black, etc. However, this type of reading is inadequate because it is too limiting. Reed goes beyond the binaries and beyond the Western assumption of one or the other. He creates a kind of hybrid notion, suggesting the text contains more of a crossroads motif than a simple inversion of dominance and oppression. Using Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism as a theoretical framework, I examine the protagonist, PaPa LaBas, as well as the text Mumbo Jumbo itself because they represent the points at which Reed’s notions of hybridity are most prominent. Cynthia Hamilton writes that which most closely summarizes my concept: “The ‘X’ of the crossing roadbeds signals the multidirectionality of the juncture and is simply a single instance in a boundless network that redoubles and circles . . . and branches over the vastness of hundreds of thousands of American miles” (237). The sense of redoubling and circling aligns with Gates’s theory of “Signifying(g),” and the process enables readers to go beyond the binaries to discover the complex nature of Reed’s work.
Webb, Michelle, "Rupturing The Plane: Signifying(G) at the Junctures in Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo" (2012). Master's Theses. 132.
© 2012 Michelle Webb