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“‘Is this what motherhood is?’: Ambivalent Representations of Motherhood in Black Women’s Novels, 1953-2011”

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title
“‘Is this what motherhood is?’: Ambivalent Representations of Motherhood in Black Women’s Novels, 1953-2011”
author
Gotfredson, Erika
abstract
This project analyzes three novels written by African-American women that include ambivalent representations of motherhood: Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha (1953), Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970), and Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones (2011). Diverging from the image of the strong black mother that frequently appears in black women’s writing, these novels contain women whose mothering experiences are hardly empowering; instead, they find the expectations of domesticity or self-sacrifice placed on them to be burdensome and confining. Rather than pathologizing black mothers, these texts’ ambivalent representations of motherhood expose societal limitations placed on black mothers, both in terms of the sexist narratives that confine black women to motherhood alone and the racist structures that obstruct the motherwork they perform. As these texts span a sixty-year time period, this thesis also seeks to demonstrate how the racist and sexist oppression black mothers face has transformed in relation to political, social, and economic trends over the past sixty years. Accordingly, it makes room for a more diverse range of mothering experiences in the black women’s literary tradition and argues that conversations about black women’s unique hardships remain just as pressing as they were sixty years ago.
subject
Black Women
Gwendolyn Brooks
Jesmyn Ward
Motherhood
Toni Morrison
contributor
Brown, Christopher M (committee chair)
Still, Erica (committee member)
Bowie, Rian (committee member)
date
2018-05-24T08:36:12Z (accessioned)
2020-05-23T08:30:17Z (available)
2018 (issued)
degree
English (discipline)
embargo
2020-05-23 (terms)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/90735 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
type
Thesis

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