Freedom Seeking and Self-Making in Twentieth Century Black Women's Literature
Latimore, Grace Olivia
Patricia Hill Collins writes of the importance of self-determination in Black Feminist Thought (2000), citing the consistent denial of equity and justice for Black women as one of the main reasons for Black women to commit themselves to self-determination. Collins and her directive is but a continuance in the long line of black feminist critics who consider the ways Black women are able to direct their efforts to make spaces, homes, and communities for and among themselves. The possibilities, the processes, and the pains of self-making are evident in Passing written by Nella Larsen and published in 1929, The Street by Ann Petry and published in 1946, and Sula authored by Toni Morrison and published in 1973; as three of the most discussed novels written by black women in the twentieth century, the decision to focus on these three was born out of the stunning parallels between them and the radical tales of self-making they contain. The processes of self-making, as Larsen, Petry, and Morrison examine is a complicated one fraught with negotiations of history, physical space, and lingering trauma.Ultimately, thesis seeks to consider both how relational identities within community/communal space are sites of subversion for Black women. Larsen, Petry, and Morrison question the limitations and possibilities within community, writing of women who reflect and refract the images of their female friends, mothers who baptize and sacrifice their children by fire, and characters who deem their intersections of race and gender to be “the same as being a man”.
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