"Sometimes Folk Need More": Black Women Writers Dwelling in the Beyond

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2007-05-01

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The 1970s were a prolific era for Black women's writing. During what is now referred to as the Black Women's Literary Renaissance, Black women writers worked to center Black women's experiences in American and African American literary "traditions" that had theretofore excluded them. This project examines how more recent writing by Black women signifies on the issues and concerns that defined the Renaissance, particularly issues of historical recovery and Black male sexism. Despite the progressive nature of the Renaissance, Black women consistently found that their work was at odds with what Farah Jasmine Griffin calls, "the promise of protection," propagated by Black Nationalism. In response to this patriarchal promise, writers like Toni Morrison, for example, created characters, who like Sula Peace, chose a space of solitude over the patriarchal offer of "protection." I argue that contemporary Black women writers are re-thinking spaces of solitude, and instead proposing a "promise of partnership" that is grounded in a critical gender consciousness.

"Sometimes Folk Need More": Black Women Writers Dwelling in the Beyond" is an interdisciplinary study of reformed partnership in the cultural productions of four contemporary Black women writers. Appropriating Homi Bhabha's concept of "dwelling in the beyond," I discuss how these writers imagine a productive and secure space for intra-racial, heterosexual dialogue in Toni Morrison's, Paradise, Erna Brodber's, Louisiana, Kasi Lemmons' film, Eve's Bayou, and Danzy Senna's short story, "The Land of Beulah." Each of these texts suggest that not only do promises of protection leave characters needing "something more," but that previous narratives of kinship and family that were a hallmark of Black women's Renaissance era writing, leave the characters needing "something more," as well. As the texts interrogate familial and heterosexual relationships, they consistently conclude that "the more" is a reformed heterosexual partnership that is grounded in unmotivated respect.

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