Maternal Metaphors of Power in African American Women's Literature
From Phillis Wheatley to Toni Morrison
Moore traces black women writers' creation of feminine and maternal metaphors of power in literature from the colonial-era work of Phillis Wheatley to the postmodern efforts of Paule Marshall, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison. Through their characters Moore shows how these writers re-created the identity of black women and challenge existing rules shaping their subordinate status and behavior. Drawing on feminist, psychoanalytic, and other social science theory, Moore examines the maternal iconography and counter-hegemonic narratives by which these writers responded to oppressive conventions of race, gender, and authority.
Moore grounds her account in studies of Wheatley, Harriet Jacobs, Charlotte Forten Grimké, Jessie Fauset, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston. All these authors, she contends, wrote against invisibility and powerlessness by developing and cultivating a personal voice and an individual story of vulnerability, nurturing capacity, and agency that confounded prevailing notions of race and gender and called into question moral reform.
In these nine writers' construction of feminine images—real and symbolic—Moore finds a shared sense of the historically significant role of black women in the liberation struggle during slavery, the Jim Crow period, and beyond.
A foreword is offer by Andrew Billingsley, a pioneering sociologist and a leading scholar in African American studies.
About the Authors
"A work brimming with new insights about the intersection of biography, literature, and history. Geneva Cobb Moore makes a compelling case for what she calls feminine and maternal metaphors of power in African-American women's writings—the image of the black female body as a site of regeneration, freedom, and beauty."—Jacqueline Jones, Mastin Gentry White Professor of Southern History and Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas, University of Texas at Austin
"This work places the literary writings of influential and intellectual black women in their historical times, uniquely combining history and literature or presenting literature as history. . . . The ambition of this examination opens up a Pandora's box of American history and the tragedy and transformation of African Americans. Enslaved and freed and perpetually existing in a state of rediscovering the meaning of freedom, its restrictions, and its possibilities, African Americans offer a different narrative on history from the one constructed by the mainstream media and the general society, as this book illuminates."—Andrew Billingsley, from the foreword
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