The Black Female Body in American Literature and Art

Performing Identity

By Caroline Brown

© 2012 – Routledge

308 pages

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Paperback: 9780415744249
pub: 2013-11-08
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Hardback: 9780415895507
pub: 2011-12-21
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About the Book

This book examines how African-American writers and visual artists interweave icon and inscription in order to re-present the black female body, traditionally rendered alien and inarticulate within Western discursive and visual systems. Brown considers how the writings of Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Paule Marshall, Edwidge Danticat, Jamaica Kincaid, Andrea Lee, Gloria Naylor, and Martha Southgate are bound to such contemporary, postmodern visual artists as Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker, Betye Saar, and Faith Ringgold. While the artists and authors rely on radically different media—photos, collage, video, and assembled objects, as opposed to words and rhythm—both sets of intellectual activists insist on the primacy of the black aesthetic. Both assert artistic agency and cultural continuity in the face of the oppression, social transformation, and cultural multiplicity of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This book examines how African-American performative practices mediate the tension between the ostensibly de-racialized body politic and the hyper-racialized black, female body, reimagining the cultural and political ground that guides various articulations of American national belonging. Brown shows how and why black women writers and artists matter as agents of change, how and why the form and content of their works must be recognized and reconsidered in the increasingly frenzied arena of cultural production and political debate.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction: Gaps and Contradictions: Righting the Black Body in the White Text 1: The Poetics of Late Capitalism and the Black Cultural Imaginary: Revising Modernity’s Archive through Postmodern Praxis 2: A Complicated Anger: The Performative Black Body as Postmodern Bricolage 3: When the Circle Has Been Broken and No Words Can Heal the Pain: Possession-Performance as Ritual Mourning 4: The Haunted Echo and the Riddle of the Word: the Black Musical Tradition as the Renegotiation of Identity 5: The Scopic and the Scene: Performance, Performativity, and the Destabilization of the Racial Gaze 6: The Silenced Tongue, a Rebellious Art: the Body as Tableau Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Caroline Brown is an assistant professor in the English department at the University of Montreal. She specializes in African-American and diasporic literature, 20th century U.S. literature, and women’s studies. Her articles have appeared in African American Review, Obsidian III, NWSA Journal, and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

About the Series

Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature

This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to literary studies, it engages with topics such as philosophy, science, race, gender, film, music, and ecology. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / American / African American
LITERARY CRITICISM / American / African American
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies