Date of Thesis

2010

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Carmen Gillespie

Abstract

This project attempts to contribute to the various discourses within the black womanist tradition. In 1983, Alice Walker published her landmark collection of essays entitled In Search of Our Mother Gardens: Womanist Prose. At the outset of the volume, Walker defines the core concept of womanism. After a poetic four-part definition of the term womanist, Walker concludes by stating, 'womanist is to feminist as purple to lavender' (Phillips 19). Although this analogy is critically engaged, the scholarly discourse that emerged in response to Walker's proposition shapes the intellectual inner workings of this project. Certain established concepts (such as ancestral mediation or the laying on of hands) work in conjunction with my own concepts of 'wom(b)anism' and 'the communal womb' to frame the interpretive discussions throughout these pages. Wom(b)anism and the communal womb both emerge from the black feminist and womanist traditions, especially via the role of ancestral mediation but also within the contested discourses on womanism itself. I apply the two concepts (wom(b)anism and the communal womb) to my readings of Haile Gerima's Sankofa, Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place, and Gayl Jones' Corregidora. The relationship between the community and women's wombs across each of these texts construct a narrative that features ancestral mediation (or intervention), various acts of violence committed against women's bodies, and the complicated circumstances through which women heal themselves andtheir communities.

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