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Alice Walker’s Womanist Fiction: Tensions and Reconciliations

Hami, Iman (2016) Alice Walker’s Womanist Fiction: Tensions and Reconciliations. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


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A theory formulated by Alice Walker, womanism focuses on the unification of men and women with Nature and Earth. This thesis explores womanism with regards to its specific concerns with African American women’s rights, identities, and self-actualisation, and points towards its more overarching concerns with human relations and sexual freedom, as expressed in each of Walker’s seven novels. The seven novels discussed in the thesis are The Third Life of Grange Copeland (1970), Meridian (1976), The Color Purple (1982), The Temple of My Familiar (1989), Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), By the Light of My Father’s Smile (1998), and Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart (2004). Although Walker introduces the term “womanism” in 1983, this thesis traces the development of the concept across her canon of fictional works. By analysing the novels written in the 1970s, I establish how the term came to be coined, and, by seeing through themes and issues addressed early on and how they can be mapped through analysis of her later works, I demonstrate how womanism went on to be further developed and complexly wrought. This thesis thus examines how Alice Walker’s own theory of womanism is reflected through the oeuvre of her fictional works, and considers where tensions arise in her application of what is intended to be a universalist, humanist, project. For, in many of her novels, it is women’s sexuality and sexual power that are the focus, often at the cost of developing the potential of male characters’ equivalent attributes. However, as will be argued, it is in Walker’s later, less appreciated, works that womanism is more fully developed in its universal claims. The integration of spiritual themes and concepts into her narratives reduce or remove the tensions that arise in the reconciliation between woman and man, as well as between humanity and nature.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F001 United States local history
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Iman Hami
Date Deposited: 17 May 2016 12:11
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 01:00

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