Date of Award

Summer 1-1-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts In English



First Advisor

Karem, Frederick J.

Second Advisor

Dr. Adam Sonstegard

Third Advisor

Dr. Rachel Carnell


Studies of American literature and, more specifically, literature by authors of color quite often focus on aspects of “othering”, that is, the practice of separating minority culture and literature from the larger or more dominant culture. Even before the onset of the Civil Rights Era, issues of racism have informed much of the literature of the United States, and just as long as racism has played a role in American literature, scholars, critics, and readers have discussed it. The bulk of criticism discussing African American and Native American literature examines the issues of racism as perpetrated by white society. What is not as commonly examined is the role that internalized racism plays. Ralph Ellison and Sherman Alexie are two of the most extensively studied authors of African American and Native American descent respectively, but analysis of their work tends to overlook the racism that a person can experience against his own race, choosing instead to focus on the hegemonic master narrative. Both authors used a blend of narratological self-deprecation to illustrate a desire both from and for their respective races within a larger, “American” identity; however, whereas Ellison’s novel is a bildungsroman that uses a single narrator’s self-hatred, Alexie employs multiple narrators and points of view to stitch bricolage that ultimately serves as a cohesive narrative. Eschewing the typical line of argument about visual imagery, this paper intends to explore how each author uses elements of sound, auditory metaphors, and, especially storytelling and folklore to depict internalized racism, how it works its way under the skin, and how it can be used to expose the effects of overt racism.