African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction: Threaded Visions of Memory, Community, Nature and Being is the nexus to scholarship on manifestations of Africanisms in black art and culture, particularly the scant critical works focusing on African metaphysical retentions. This study examines New World African spirituality as a syncretic dynamic of spiritual retentions and transformations that have played prominently in the literary imagination of black women writers. Beginning with the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction traces applications and transformations of African spirituality in black women’s writings that culminate in the conscious and deliberate celebration of Africanity in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. The journey from Wheatley’s veiled remembrances to Hurston’s explicit gaze of continental Africa represents the literary journey of black women writers to represent Africa as not only a very real creative resource but also a liberating one. Hurston’s icon of black female autonomy and self realization is woven from the thread work of African spiritual principles that date back to early black women’s writings.
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About the Author
Elizabeth J. West is an associate professor of English at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. in English with a certificate in Women's Studies from Emory University. Her research and teaching focuses on representations of gender, race, class, and spirituality in early American and African American literary works. She has published articles in anthologies and in CLA, MELUS, JCCH, Womanist, Black Magnolias, and South Central Review. She was an invited speaker and discussant for the 2009 Summer Transnational American Studies Seminar (sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service) at the University of Mainz (Germany). She was a 2002 AAUW Research Fellow and a ROOTS 2003 NEH Summer Seminar Participant (6/2-7/11 Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and University of Virginia). She has served as a Special Delegate for the Modern Language Association, and she is currently Assistant Treasurer for the College Language Association.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: From Africa to America
Chapter 2: Wheatley as Beginning
Chapter 3: African and Christian Encounters in Early Black Women’s Writings
Chapter 4: Silencing Africa: Christianity’s Persistent Voice in Early Black Women’s Novels
Chapter 5: Christianity and a Reawakening Africanity: Black Spirituality in the Post-Reconstruction Novels of Frances E. W. Harper and Pauline Hopkins
Chapter 6: Rethinking Religiosity in the Wake of Modernity: Transformations of Christian Idealisms in the Novels of Jessie Fauset
Chapter 7: Transformed Religiosities: Africanity and Christianity in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand and Zora Neale Hurston’s Jonah’s Gourd Vine and Their Eyes Were Watching God