Black Women Writers And The American Neo-Slave Narrative

Overview

The neo-slave narrative is an important development in American literary history and has serious revisionist intentions at its foundation. This book examines how contemporary African American women writers have shaped the genre. These authors have written neo-slave narratives to reinscribe history from the perspective of the African American woman, most specifically the nineteenth century enslaved mother. The writers considered in this study—Sherley Anne Williams, Toni Morrison, J. California Cooper, Gayl Jones, ...

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Overview

The neo-slave narrative is an important development in American literary history and has serious revisionist intentions at its foundation. This book examines how contemporary African American women writers have shaped the genre. These authors have written neo-slave narratives to reinscribe history from the perspective of the African American woman, most specifically the nineteenth century enslaved mother. The writers considered in this study—Sherley Anne Williams, Toni Morrison, J. California Cooper, Gayl Jones, and Octavia Butler—explore American slavery through the lens of gender, both to interrogate the myth that enslaved women, denied the privilege of having a gender identity by the institution of slavery, were in fact genderless, and to celebrate the acts of resistance which enabled enslaved women to mother in the fullest sense of the term.

The volume begins with an overview of historical representations of slavery in America, from the slave narrative itself to the revisionist scholarship of the 1960s. The book then examines several individual neo-slave narratives, such as Margaret Walker's Jubilee (1966), Williams' Dessa Rose (1986), Morrison's Beloved (1987), Cooper's Family (1991), Jones' Corregidora (1975), and Butler's Kindred (1979). What the women in these novels have in common is the fact that they mother; what the writers have in common is a tendency to utilize subversive strategies such as reversal, blurring, and the creation of myth to dramatize gender identity and to highlight the varied nature of motherhood as enslaved women experienced it. The final chapter evaluates the influence of the neo-slave narrative on American literature in general and on popular perceptions and misperceptions of African American women.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Explores the recent fiction by American black women based on the style of slave narratives and the scholarship that has been done on them over the past few years. Emphasizes their attempts to reinscribe history from the perspective of the black woman, most specifically the 19th-century enslaved mother. Considers the work of Sherley Anne Williams, Toni Morrison, J. California Cooper, Gayl Jones, and Octavia Butler. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

ELIZABETH ANN BEAULIEU is a Lecturer at Appalachian State University, where she teaches African American Literature.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Slavery, Freedom, Jubilee: Reclaiming, Repositioning, and Revaluing the American Slave Narrative 1
2 "Cause I Can": Race, Gender, and Power in Sherley Anne Williams' Dessa Rose 29
3 The Politics of Gender in Toni Morrison's Beloved: If "a man ain't nothing but a man," Then What Is a Woman? 57
4 Myth-Making, Myth-Breaking: "Such a thing ... to marvel over" in J. California Cooper's Family 83
5 "So Many Relatives": Twentieth-Century Women Meet Their Pasts 109
6 "Children of Those Who Chose to Survive": Neo-Slave Narrative Authors Create Women of Resistance 137
References 161
Index 173
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