“A sensible, humane, clear, direct voice revealing import strengths (Walker) and weaknesses (Drabble, Emecheta) in these novelists’s aesthetics concerning femaleness.”
“Readable, ground-breaking and provocative. [Allan’s book] provides a valuable new tool for feminist critics in showing how Walker’s concept of womanism can be applied to British and African women’s fiction to interrogate issues of gender, race, class, and imperialism.”
Christine W. Sizemore, Spelman College
Alice Walker’s womanist theory about black feminist identity and practice also contains a critique of white liberal feminism. This is the first in-depth study to examine issues of identity and difference within feminism by drawing on Walker’s notion of an essential black feminist consciousness.
Allan defines womanism as a “(r)evolutionary aesthetic that seeks to fully realize the feminist goal of resistance to patriarchal domination,” demonstrated most powerfully in The Color Purple. She also recognizes the complexities and ambiguities embedded in the concept, particularly the notion of a fixed and unitary black feminist identity, separate and distinct from its white counterpart. Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Drabble’s The Middle Ground, she argues, do not allay Walker’s concerns about white liberal feminist practice, but they reveal signs of struggle that complicate the womanist/feminist dichotomy. Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood, an ostensibly womanist text, fails to fit the race-restrictive womanist paradigm, and Walker’s own aesthetic trajectory—before The Color Purple—places her outside womanist boundaries. Finally, Allan’s intertextual reading reveals significant commonalities and differences.
In the current debate among competing feminisms, this critical appraisal of womanist theory underscores the need for new thinking about essentialism, identity, and difference, and also for creative cooperation in the struggle against domination.
Tuzyline Jita Allan, originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, teaches in the English Department at Baruch College of the City University of New York. More info →
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The Twelve Best Books by African Women is a collection of critical essays on eleven works of fiction and one play, an important but belated affirmation of women writers on the continent and a first step toward establishing a recognized canon of African women’s literature.
Margaret Garner was a runaway slave who, when confronted with capture, slit the throat of her toddler daughter rather than have her face a life in slavery. Driven toward Madness probes slavery’s legacy of violence and trauma to capture her circumstances and her transformation from a murdering mother to an icon of tragedy and resistance.
American History · Slavery and Slave Trade · African American Studies · Legal and Constitutional History · 19th century · Women’s Studies · Ohio · History | African American · American History, Midwest
Masculine codes of honor and dominance often are expressed in acts of violence, including war and terrorism. In Disarming Manhood: Roots of Ethical Resistance, David A. J. Richards examines the lives of five famous men—great leaders and crusaders—who actively resisted violence and presented more humane alternatives to further their causes.Richards argues that William Lloyd Garrison, Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr.
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