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SignsSpiritual Interrogations marks a change in the very direction of the multiple academic disciplines that intersect at black (women's) studies.
— Joycelyn Moody, Hamilton College
Katherine Clay Bassard's book is the first detailed account of pre-Emancipation writings from the period of 1760 to 1863, in light of a developing African American religious culture and emerging free black communities. Her study—which examines the relationship among race, culture, and community—focuses on four women: the poet Phillis Wheatley and poet and essayist Ann Plato, both Congregationalists; and the itinerant preacher Jarena Lee, and Shaker eldress Rebecca Cox Jackson, who, with Lee, had connections with African Methodism.
Together, these women drew on what Bassard calls a "spirituals matrix," which transformed existing literary genres to accommodate the spiritual music and sacred rituals tied to the African diaspora. Bassard's important illumination of these writers resurrects their path-breaking work. They were cocreators, with all black women who followed, of African American intellectual life.
|Ch. 1||The Daughters' Arrival: Histories, Theories, Vernaculars||10|
|Ch. 2||Diaspora Subjectivity and Transatlantic Crossings: Phillis Wheatley's Poetics of Recovery||28|
|Ch. 3||"The Too Advent'rous Strain": Slavery, Conversion, and Poetic Empowerment in Phillis Wheatley's Elegies||58|
|Ch. 4||"Social Piety" in Ann Plato's Essays||71|
|Ch. 5||"I Took a Text": Itinerancy, Community, and Intertextuality in Jarena Lee's Spiritual Narratives||87|
|Ch. 6||Rituals of Desire: Spirit, Culture, and Sexuality in the Writings of Rebecca Cox Jackson||108|
|Ch. 7||Performing Community: Culture, Community, and African American Subjectivity before Emancipation||127|
|Afterword: The Sacred Subject||140|