Afro-Caribbean Women's Writing and Early American Literature is both pedagogical and critical. The text begins by re-evaluating the poetry of Wheatley for its political commentary, demonstrates how Hurston bridges several literary genres and geographies, and introduces Black women writers of the Caribbean to some American audiences. It sheds light on lesser-discussed Black women playwrights of the Harlem Renaissance and re-evaluates the turn-of-the century concept, Noble Womanhood in light of the Cult of Domesticity.
LaToya Jefferson-James is assistant professor of composition and world literature at Mississippi Valley State University.
Preface: The Work of Black Women Writing Communities
Introduction: The Continued Relevance of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers
Chapter One: Doing the Work of ‘Nobler Womanhood:’ Ida B. Wells-Barnett, N.F. Mossell, and Victoria Earle Matthews
Chapter Two: Yours for Humanity: An Examination of the Life and Work of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins (1856-1930)
Chapter Three: Plagiarizing Blackness: Racial Performances and Passing in Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted
Chapter Four: New Nation, New Migration and New Negro: A Reading of Aftermath, Rachel, and Environment
Chapter Five: When Madness Makes Sense in Early Black Women’s Drama
Chapter Six: Zora Neale Hurston’s Dust Tracks on a Road as Literacy Narrative
Chapter Seven: Karen Lord: Situating the Caribbean Female Space
Chapter Eight: A Retrospective on the Literary Influence of Merle Hodge’s Crick Crack, Monkey
Alison D. Ligon
Chapter Nine: A Laying on of Hands: Healing the Diasporic Body in Colonized Spaces in Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John
Chapter Ten: Authorizing Discourse: Black Feminist Theorizing in Michelle Cliff’s Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise
Chapter Eleven: So Eager to Bloom: Reframing Images of Adolescent Protagonists in Edwidge Danticat’s Behind the Mountains and Untwine
Conclusion: Beginning at the Beginning: Teaching Morrison through Stewart and Hurston through Marson and Conde
About the Contributors
Afro-Caribbean Women's Writing and Early American Literature entices us with its title, but it delivers more than it promises. The collection covers more ground and interrogates more traditions than its name suggests. The essays in this volume engage the “work” of writers that obviously span, but the conversation the essays organize move us through the African diaspora, between realist and speculative fictions, into young adult literature, poetry, drama and journalism, to articulate black women’s voice in the communal conversation of writing and the liberatory work writing both embodies and narrates. Offering new readings of old debates, the essays demand that we remember Phillis Wheatley as politically aware and philosophically astute, defamiliarizes the “artistic genius” familiars like Maria Stewart, Zora Neale Hurston and Ida B Wells as it recuperates journalist Gertrude (N. F.) Mossell and dramatists Mary Burill and Mercedes Gilbert, restores broadcaster Una Marson and recognizes to the tradition of intertextual liberatory work that is black women writers “claiming an identity they [were] taught [they should] despise”. I paraphrase Michelle Cliff to emphasize this collection takes on the tough task of recalibrating the lens through which we read black women’s writing not only by offering new theoretical frames but by moving us away from “theoriz[ing] Black Women’s literature” through “too few examples.” Whether seasoned scholar or first year English major, this volume breaks the basic rules of anthology as it anthologizes. By (re)constructing and allowing us to eavesdrop on the “dialectal beauty and richness” of conversations between African diaspora women writers, the essays in this volume take us deeper into this belletristic tradition.