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256Southern Cultures Daughters of Time: Creating Woman's Voice in Southern Story. By Lucinda H. MacKethan . University of Georgia Press, 1990. 130 pp. Cloth, $22.50; paper, $10.95. Reviewed by Sarah Gordon, who is professor ofEnglish at Georgia College and senior editor of The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin. She is at work on a critical study of O'Connor entitled Flannery O'Connor: The Obedient Imagination. At least since the publication of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic in 1979, feminist literary critics have acknowledged the temerity of a woman's decision to seize the pen—with its obvious associations with phallocentric power—for her own use. Lucinda MacKethan adds her voice by asserting that southern women in particular have found writing to be a powerful means of separating themselves from the patriarchy and establishing their own identities. Whether black or white, slave or free, southern women have sought control over their lives by controlling the narrative, by creating their own stories apart from those prescribed by white male power. MacKethan argues that these women in essence create and take charge of their own lives as they control language and use it to escape the confines of the father's house. Because it was initially a series of lectures, Daughters ofTime is brief, whetting the reader's appetite for fuller development of its thesis. It is disconcerting that MacKethan never mentions such major southern women writers as Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O'Connor, and Carson McCullers. Further, some of the author's selections are questionable. For example, the discussion of Catherine Hammond (1814-1896), the wife of South Carolina statesman James Hammond, stretches MacKethan's thesis. Mrs. Hammond obviously suffered greatly in her marriage to an ambitious and unfaithful man, but MacKethan offers only two letters (few have been published) as evidence that this plantation mistress progressed from "a state of permanent daughterhood" to the celebration of "her discovery that she could transform [her husband's] name and his house into her own." One wonders whether MacKethan chose Hammond primarily to provide a contrast with the far more compelling story of Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897), whose Incidents in the Life ofa Slave Girl is a classic slave narrative. Through determination and cleverness, Jacobs escaped her identity as a slave through the power of her autobiography, which sets an example for others, especially for other female slaves. MacKethan observes that Jacobs "overturns plot expectations decreed by a male-organized value system" and "redefines the basis of power so that women's modes of control become dominant." Thus, Jacobs replaces "the South's controlling patriarchal mythology with a new myth governed by metaphoric figures of a matriarch and an effective, racially diverse community of women." Jacobs's story of misery and vulnerability at the hands of her white masters makes Catherine Hammond's chafing at her confinement in the role of plantation mistress and dutiful wife seem far less significant. MacKethan's choice of twentieth-century writers supports her thesis more effectively : Ellen Glasgow, Zora Neale Hurston, and Eudora Welty, each of whom wrote an autobiography in her later years. Glasgow's The Woman Within (1954), Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road (1942), and Welty's One Writer's Beginnings (1984) demonstrate their need "to explore, as well as to complete, the writer's definition of herself as writer." Despite obvious differences in background and temperament, the writers counter the male linear nanative and its forward chronology with a reconstruction of events in "pictorial frames." Each associates her mother "with suffering and sacrifice" and sees her father as "a model of Reviews257 forbidden and inaccessible power that constitutes a challenge." As a consequence, each daughter-as-writer is "torn between longing for the father's self-sufficiency and guilt for the mother's self-denial." These writers seize upon words as a means of journeying from home, an essential development in the discovery of voice. These are "prodigal daughters," however , who leave—whether literally leaving home or journeying inward—only to return to their true country, perhaps to know it for the first time. Glasgow's Barren Ground (1925), Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 256-258
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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