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Making Home : (Re)Writing Motherhood and Identity in African American Women’s Fiction

Houlihan, Jessica (2021) Making Home : (Re)Writing Motherhood and Identity in African American Women’s Fiction. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis examines representations of motherhood and acts of domestic and diasporic homemaking within four African American women’s novels of the twentieth century. Combining black feminist critique, maternal theory and historical enquiry, the work develops across four chapters, beginning with Paule Marshall’s 1959 novel Brown Girl, Brownstones, and progressing chronologically in its discussions of Sarah E. Wright’s This Child’s Gonna Live [1969], Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo [1983] and Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day [1989]. The analysis explores the myriad ways in which motherhood provides as it necessitates strategies of resistance under white patriarchy, exploring literary rewritings of maternal identity within and against these contexts. It suggests that mothering forms the core of each text’s engagement with anti-racist feminist politics, with the familial homespace functioning as an important site of this political work. The discussion interrogates the role of mothering work within the building of diasporic consciousness, complicating and enriching understandings of home and homelands, or motherlands. Diasporic connections are interpreted using a maternal approach, focusing on the influence of Afrocentric cultural traditions within the home, conjuration and spirit work as domestic rituals, and the transmission of ancestral knowledge along motherlines. T he methodological framework incorporates the maternal scholarship of Patricia Hill Collins, Sara Ruddick and Andrea O’Reilly, and the black feminist literary and sociohistorical criticism of bell hooks, Deborah Gray White, Trudier Harris and Barbara Christian, among others. The integration of maternal thinking with black feminist iv thought, and development of a critical feminist language along motherlines, provides an innovative literary praxis through which the paradigms of white patriarchy can be deconstructed and redefined.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Jessica Houlihan
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2021 10:59
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2021 10:59

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