Maya Angelou: Metamorphosis: A Personal Journey in Identity Politics

UNCP Author/Contributor (non-UNCP co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Christine Chambers-Merriman (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP )
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Abstract: Maya Angelou displays in her works of autobiography and poetry a tension between her perceptions of self, and her need to reconcile those perceptions with an evolving vision of universal culture. A study of her attitudes towards race, gender, a transformation that moves from a small, isolated, and often angry world-view to a position of racial pride, powerful gender identity, and world citizenship. The operative themes of race, gender, and class will be examined in four aspects, corresponding to the stages of her growth: perception of dichotomy in her life; anger, audacity, and action as response; a transitional chrysalis period; and emerging creativity, marked by the tension of balance and counterbalance, (self vs. universal image) as she continues to explore the question of her identity in the world. Peter Erickson, in 'Rewriting Shakespeare, Rewriting Ourselves', provides a working definition of "identity politics": The deep heart's core of literary experience involves the engagement with one's cultural specificity, including its political ramifications. While the notion of universality sidesteps the task of acknowledging and assessing cultural difference, identity politics enables us to begin this task.He further elucidates:Identity politics refers to categories of race, gender, and class by which we name difference. Thus, when the ideal of common culture is counterbalanced by giving equal weight to the principle of identity politics, the term counterbalanced means that the two terms are not so much reconciled as held in productive tension (172).Acknowledgement and assessment of cultural difference was a primary task of Maya Angelou's young womanhood; celebration of both differences and common humanity the theme of her later works. The tensions created by this counterbalance have been catalysts for a metamorphosis in her own "deep heart's core", a change that continues to inform her development as author and human being.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1994
Maya Angelou, Autobiography, Poetry, Universal Culture, Counterbalance, Literature,

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