A hard kind of freedom: absurdity, choice, and responsibility in the writings of Harriet Jacobs and Toni Morrison

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jawana Southerland Little (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Kathleen Casey

Abstract: Through the use of African American literature, I imagine the particular black feminist existential dilemma of black mothers who lived in this country as slaves. This was a time in history in which a child who was born to an enslaved mother was also by law considered a slave. This dissertation analyzes what happens when maternal rights are threatened and how racism and white patriarchal domination have impacted black motherhood. In this dissertation I construct a black feminist existential philosophy. Through my analysis of the intertextual connectedness of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) by Harriet Jacobs and Beloved (2004) by Toni Morrison, I articulate a theory about a complex account of the enslaved black woman's maternal subjectivity and an analysis of her absurd environment, her response to that environment through choice, and the responsibility involved in her decision. Using the slave narrative (Incidents) and neo-slave narrative (Beloved) as a focal point for contextualizing this ontological examination, I aim to engage the existential dilemma of the black woman and the ways in which the predicament of oppression, the possibility of agency within that oppression, and the implications of agency for the black mother can expand the present epistemology of black maternal subjectivity.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
African American Literature, Black feminist existentialism, Healing pedagogy, Intertextuality, Literary criticism, Slavery
Jacobs, Harriet A. $q (Harriet Ann), $d 1813-1897 $t Incidents in the life of a slave girl
Morrison, Toni. $t Beloved
African American women in literature
Mother and child in literature
Motherhood in literature
Slavery in literature

Email this document to