Saints, Sinners, Saviors: Strong Black Women in African American Literature

Saints, Sinners, Saviors: Strong Black Women in African American Literature

by T. Harris
     
 

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Saints, Sinners, Saviors: Strong Black Women in African American Literature posits strength as a frequently contradictory and damaging trait for black women characters in several literary works of the twentieth century. Authors of these works draw upon popular images of African American women in producing what they believe to be safe literary representations.

Overview

Saints, Sinners, Saviors: Strong Black Women in African American Literature posits strength as a frequently contradictory and damaging trait for black women characters in several literary works of the twentieth century. Authors of these works draw upon popular images of African American women in producing what they believe to be safe literary representations. Instead, strength becomes a problematic trait, at times a disease, in many characters in which it appears. It has a detrimental impact on the relatives and neighbors of such women as well as on the women themselves. The pattern of portraying women characters as strong in African American literature has become so pronounced that it has stifled the literature.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

'...vivid and provactive descriptions of some of the great strong women characters of recent African American literature.' - Charlotte Observer

'...vivid and provocative descriptions of some of the great strong women characters of recent African American literature.' - D.G. Martin, Rocky Mount Telegram

Publishers Weekly
In this surprising, scholarly volume, Harris (The Power of the Porch) analyzes "the pathology of strength" that has become "a dominant pattern of development for black female character" in much of the literature taught in college African-American studies courses. An English professor at UNC Chapel Hill, Harris challengingly cites such works as Toni Morrison's Beloved, Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying and Toni Cade Bambera's The Salt Eaters to demonstrate a paradox: while "strength is undoubtedly a virtue," she writes, "it is frequently violating and destructive." (For example, the trend toward increasingly strong female characters discourages works featuring vulnerable ones, thereby stifling literary freedom.) Detailing representations of African-American women in 20th-century fiction, Harris reveals the extent to which "African American writers were just as complicitous as the white-created mythology surrounding black women in ensuring that strong, asexual representations of black female characters dominated." Harris is not without sympathy and even admiration for many aspects of these characters, even as she shows links between A Raisin in the Sun's Mama Lena and contemporary TV's fondness for large, strong and comic black female characters. The detail can be deadening so many textual citations; so much time spent on arguments but the thesis is provocative, even when it's not entirely convincing. (Dec.) Forecast: Harris's largely esoteric tone suggests that her book is destined for college classrooms. Its counterintuitive thesis and studious avoidance of lit-crit jargon will ensure a willing audience of students of American and African-American literature. Copyright 2001Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312293031
Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan US
Publication date:
02/18/2002
Edition description:
2002
Pages:
218
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.02(d)

Meet the Author

Trudier Harris is J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her most recent book isThe Power of the Porch: The Storyteller’s Craft in Zona Neale Hurston, Gloria Naylor, and Randall Kenan.

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