Water and African American Memory
An Ecocritical Perspective
Publication Year: 2011
While there is no lack of scholarship on the trans-Atlantic voyage and the Middle Passage as tropes in African diasporic writing, to date there has not been a comprehensive analysis of bodies of water in African American literature and culture.
In Water and African American Memory, Anissa Wardi offers the first sustained treatise on watercourses in the African American expressive tradition. Her holistic approach especially highlights the ways that water acts not only as a metaphorical site of trauma, memory, and healing but also as a material site.
Using the trans-Atlantic voyage as a starting point and ending with a discussion of Hurricane Katrina, this pioneering ecocritical study delves deeply into the environmental dimension of African American writing. Beyond proposing a new theoretical map for conceptualizing the African Diaspora, Wardi offers a series of engaging and original close readings of major literary, filmic, and blues texts, including the works of Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, Julie Dash, Henry Dumas, and Kasi Lemmons.
Published by: University Press of Florida
Title Page, Copyright
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I am grateful to Chatham University, and specifically to President Esther Barazzone and Vice President for Academic Affairs Laura Armesto, for granting me time and financial support to complete this book. I owe many thanks to my colleagues Bill Lenz, Lynne Bruckner, Sandy Sterner...
Introduction. African American Watersheds
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When I began working on Water and African American Memory: An Ecocritical Perspective, I knew that water was one of the central tropes in the African American literary and historical tradition, but I could not conceive of how timely this project would become. Soon after I embarked...
1. Between Breath and Death: Transatlantic Memory in Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo and Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust
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As a reader, I have traveled with Toni Morrison. I have gone to Shalimar, Virginia, to Lorain, Ohio, to Ruby, Oklahoma, to Danville, Pennsylvania. I have journeyed to the City, the Bottom, Sweet Home, Isle des Chevaliers, Solomon’s Leap, and Up Beach. I have visited 124 Bluestone...
2. Arteries of the Nation: Rivers of Redemption in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Henry Dumas’s “Ark of Bones”
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On January 27, 1856, they walked across the frozen Ohio River to freedom. Margaret Garner and her husband, four children, and in-laws fled Kentucky and, walking on solid water, crossed the river and took shelter in a Cincinnati cabin. The Garners were one of many enslaved groups...
3. Wetlands, Swamps, and Bayous: Bodies of Resistance in Kasi Lemmons’s Eve’s Bayou and Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby
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Wetlands—bayous, swamps, bogs, and marshes—are liminal geographies shifting between land and water, complicating and defying, in their very beings, categories of identification, thus constructing a trope neither of terra firma nor of strict watercourse. William Mitsch and...
Conclusion. Mud, Blood, and the Blues: Hurricane Katrina and the Floodwaters of the African Diaspora
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Concluding where we started, Hurricane Katrina is a complex ecopolitical issue that echoes, reinforces, and culminates the anchoring tropes of water and embodied trauma that structure this study. To apprehend Katrina, we must return to the transatlantic voyage and the...
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Page Count: 186
Publication Year: 2011