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Envisioning American women: The roads to communal identity in novels by women of color
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Languages, Department of English.
1998 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study explores the representation of female identity formation in ten novels, published between the late 1960s and the late 1980s, by American women of color Paula Gunn Allen, Sandra Cisneros, Maxine Hong Kingston, Paule Marshall, Louise Meriwether, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Sarah Wright. The motivation for such a selection is based on the novels' shared formal and thematic characteristics, as well as on political affinities in the emphasis on the forces marginalizing their non-white female protagonists.

I argue that these novels focus on community as the source of individual empowerment while individualism per se is often negatively coded. I pay special attention to the constructions of (grand)mother-(grand)daughter ties expressed in, for instance, the motif of ancestors and community mothers. The path to individual and collective affirmation is, however, not based on simply finding one's roots; most of the novels problematize the notion of metaphoric daughterhood, a fact underscored by the presence of several estranged "daughters." Significantly, the categories of gender, race, and class play different roles in the protagonists' sense of communal identity The novels thus implicitly put pressure on the feminist category "women." My contention, nonetheless, is that if the heterogeneity and dissension within the group are openly acknowledged, this category can still be meaningfully retained.

Taken together, these novels paint a complex and nuanced picture of female identity formation. Myth, ritual, and religion at times trigger an abrupt awareness of ancestral connections. This sudden spiritual awakening intersects with a gradual, socio-political learning process focused on surviving oppression. Arguably, the texts discussed here make a unique and valuable contribution to the complex project of theorizing female identity and subjectivity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 1998. , 242 p.
Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0562-2719 ; 104
Keyword [en]
English language
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-922ISBN: 91-554-4317-6OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-922DiVA: diva2:172434
Public defence
1998-12-11, Ihresalen, Språkvetenskapligt centrum, Villavägen 4, Uppsala, Uppsala, 10:00
Available from: 1998-11-20 Created: 1998-11-20Bibliographically approved

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