Recovering the Black Female Body: Self-Representation by African American Women

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More About This Textbook


"Although feminists have studied the social construction of the female body for many decades, few have focused on black women. In Recovering the Black Female Body, the editors present a pioneering collection of original writings by academics and artists on 'how African-American women, from slavery to the present, have represented their physical selves in opposition to the distorted vision of the dominant culture.'"-Publishers Weekly

"A collection of essays that examine the complex workings of race, gender and the body. Editors Bennett and Dickerson explain that it seeks to 'amplify' African American women writers' attempts to 'take back their selves and reappropriate and reconstitute a body that has often been hyperoticized or exoticized and made a site of impropriety and crime.'"-The Women's Review of Books

"By examining African American women writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the book not only makes a significant contribution to a body of scholarly work but also attempts to 'recover' a more accurate representation of the African American female body."-DePauw Magazine

"A highly original and very informative collection of essays that theorizes the complicated intersection of the black female body and its Western symbolic meanings. The collection is essential for anyone interested in the tensions between post-structuralist and humanist understandings of subject formation, social agency, and performative identity."-Claudia Tate, Princeton University

Despite the recent flood of scholarly work investigating race, gender, and representation, little has been written about black women's depictions of their own bodies. Both past and present-day American cultural discourse has attempted to either hypereroticize the black female body or make it a site of impropriety and crime.

The essays in this volume focus on how African American women, from the nineteenth century to the present, have represented their physical selves in opposition to the distorted vision of others. Contributors attempt to "recover" the black female body in two ways: they explore how dominant historical images have mediated black female identity, and they analyze how black women have resisted often demeaning popular cultural perceptions in favor of more diverse, subtle presentations of self.

The pieces in this book-all of them published here for the first time-address a wide range of topics, from antebellum American poetry to nineteenth-century African American actors and twentieth-century pulp fiction. Recovering the Black Female Body recognizes the pressing need to highlight the vibrant energy of African American women's attempts to wrest control of the physical and symbolic construction of their bodies away from the distortions of others.

Michael Bennett is an associate professor of English at Long Island University and coeditor of The Nature of Cities: Ecocriticism and Urban Environments. Vanessa D. Dickerson is an associate professor of English at DePauw University. She is the author of Victorian Ghosts in the Noontide: Women Writers and the Supernatural, and editor of Keeping the Victorian House.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813528397
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.73 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2002

    Informative, well comprised, and best suited on the shelves of lovers of literature and its discussion:

    This collection of essays detailing Black female self-representations across all media was a must buy for me. The writings of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Lucille Clifton and many others are discussed, in respect to the evolution of the way the Black female physical body and societal presence is represented, viewed, and captured by literature. The essay that piqued my interest is about hair fashion in relation to women and the culture/race differential. Excellent read.

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