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Cultural Sites of Critical Insight

Philosophy, Aesthetics, and African American and Native American Women's Writings

Angela L. Cotten, Christa Davis Acampora

Publication Year: 2007

Bringing together criticism on both African American and Native American women writers, this book offers fresh perspectives on art and beauty, truth, justice, community, and the making of a good and happy life. The essays draw on interdisciplinary, feminist, and comparative methods in the works of writers such as Toni Morrison, Leslie Silko, Alice Walker, Linda Hogan, Paula Gunn Allen, Luci Tapahonso, Phillis Wheatley, and Sherley Anne Williams, making them more accessible for critical consideration in the fields of aesthetics, philosophy, and critical theory. The contributors formulate unique frameworks for interpreting the multiple levels of complex, cultural play between Native American and African American women writers in America, and pave the way for innovative hermeneutic possibilities for reassessing writers of both traditions.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Cultural Sites of Critical Insight

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pp. vii-viii

Part I. Introduction

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1. On the “Res” and in the “Hood”: Making Cultures, Leaving Legacies

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pp. 3-27

Research in aesthetics and philosophy has generated insightful and thought-provoking criticism of literature as a site of aesthetic innovation, philosophical critique, and consciousness-raising. Yet, there is a noticeable dearth of criticism on the writings of African American and Native American women in these fields. These women’s cultural productions...

Part II. Transformative Aesthetics

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2. Self-Help, Indian Style? Paula Gunn Allen’s Grandmothers of the Light, Womanist Self-Recovery, and the Politics of Transformation

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pp. 31-46

Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook (Allen 1991) represents a startling departure from Paula Gunn Allen’s earlier academic work in Native American studies. As in her groundbreaking collection of scholarly essays, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (1986), Allen examines Native cultures, ...

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3. Making the Awakening Hers: Phillis Wheatley and the Transposition of African Spirituality to Christian Religiosity

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pp. 47-65

From the late eighteenth-century poetry of Phillis Wheatley to the spiritual narratives and autobiographies of nineteenth-century black women writers, the transformation of traditional African cosmologies into an African American cosmology translated through the language of Christian religiosity is apparent. Even as slaves in a foreign land, Africans and their descendants in America transformed their centuries-old cultures...

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4. “Any Woman’s Blues”: Sherley Anne Williams and the Blues Aesthetic

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pp. 67-82

Too often, the blues are understood as a predominately male, rural, and Southern mode of expression. Examined in this way, the wide range of geographic, social, and material conditions that converge to create this foundational mode of African American cultural production become conflated and compressed into a critical shorthand. Placed within this...

Part III. Critical Revisions

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5. Through the Mirror: Re-Surfacing and Self-Articulation in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms

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pp. 85-104

Critical consideration of the work of Native American women writers is often segregated within literary studies, examined primarily in relation to work by other Native writers or ethnic women writers. However, as Osage poet Carter Revard demonstrates in his essay “Herbs of Healing,” there is much to be gained by bringing Native writers into crosscultural...

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6. The Red-Black Center of Alice Walker’s Meridian: Asserting a Cherokee Womanist Sensibility

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pp. 105-119

While Alice Walker’s name frequently appears in both African American and feminist studies, little has been written of her identity as an African Cherokee. However, this is not surprising as literary scholarship concerning the works of any African Native American writers remains minute. Despite African Native American historical studies emerging in...

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7. Womanist Interventions in Historical Materialism

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pp. 121-136

Alice Walker has been a writer and activist for over forty years. Her second novel Meridian (1976) deals with a broad range of subjects, including: African American and Native American struggle, the race/class/gender matrix underlying black feminine subjectivity, Christianity as an opiate of black consciousness, and the critical methods and...

Part IV. Re(in)fusing Feminism

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8. “Both the Law and Its Transgression: ”Toni Morrison’s Paradise and “Post”–Black Feminism

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pp. 139-157

How can a writer of what Toni Morrison describes as “race-specific yet race-free prose” be defined as a black feminist author? (1993a, 211) Morrison’s reference to her own practice in this phrase stands in contradiction to the themes and characters readily apparent in her body of writing. From Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, which gave voice...

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9. Luci Tapahonso’s “Leda and the Cowboy”: A Gynocratic, Navajo Responseto Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan”

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pp. 151-170

In 1992 Navajo poet Luci Tapahonso offered the first positive poetic response to a question raised in William Butler Yeats’s 1923 “Leda and the Swan.” In his poem Yeats retells the ancient Greek myth in which impregnates a young woman named Leda. Yeats’s poem, with its themes of subjugation and victimization, ends with an unanswered question:...

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10. Mother Times Two: A Double Take n a Gynocentric Justice Song

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pp. 171-190

Between 1900 and 1902 Yankton Sioux writer Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, aka Zitkala-Sa, published a series of autobiographical essays in Harper’s and Atlantic Monthly: “Impressions from an Indian Childhood” (1900a), “School Days of an Indian Girl” (1900c), “An Indian Teacher among Indians” (1900b), and “Why I Am A Pagan” (1902). The essays address her personal experiences with assimilation, especially...


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pp. 191-205


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pp. 207-209


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pp. 211-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480571
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791469798
Print-ISBN-10: 0791469794

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 123415297
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cultural Sites of Critical Insight

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Subject Headings

  • Indian women authors -- Aesthetics.
  • American literature -- Indian authors -- History and criticism
  • American literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • African American women authors -- Aesthetics.
  • American literature -- African American authors -- History and criticism
  • African American women in literature.
  • Indian women in literature.
  • Feminism in literature.
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