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250Reviews Although Berg acknowledges that Larsen, at least, focuses on "the creative rather than the procreative potential of her artist-heroine" (11), she provides little sustained analysis of the literary manipulation of the maternal role: whether this is undertaken by the writer herself, or by her fictional alter ego. The epilogue to Berg's book, entitled "Representing Motherhood at Century's End" prompts what is perhaps the most significant criticism of the study. Rather than concluding her considered analysis of the literary response to race and motherhood, Berg's focus shifts to popular culture, and towards the cinematic representation of her central theme. The subsequent critique of Jonathan Demme's Belovedand Carl Franklin's One True Thing, both released in 1998, attempts to show that in this most accessible of cultural forms, "motherhood remains one key arena in which national racial anxieties are worked out" (143). Despite the difficulties posed by the fact that these films have been received as problematic re-workings of literary texts, the central problem with this account is that the concerns and contexts ofearly twentieth century women writers—which are articulated with considerable clarity in Berg's writing—are entirely distinct from the priorities and prejudices of a film industry that is responsible for these unrepresentative maternal profiles. It is unfortunate, therefore, that this rather disappointing vision of motherhood's meeting with contemporary debate should form the epilogue to an otherwise engaging and impressive work of cultural criticism. University of Warwick, U.K.Sophie Blanch Wardi, Anissa Janine. Death and the Arc ofMourning in African American Literature. Gainesville: The Univ. Press of Florida, 2003. 256 pp. Cloth: $55.00. Anissa Janine Wardi's Death and the Arc ofMourning in African American Literature is positioned within a growing field of study on the representation of death in literary and cultural studies, a field comprised of works such as Elisabeth Bronfen's Over Her Dead Body (1992), Alan Warren Friedman's FictionalDeath and the Modernist Enterprise (1995), Alessia Ricciardi's TheEndsofMourning(2003), Sharon Patricia Holland's RaisingtheDead'(2000), and Karla FC Holloway's PassedOn (2002). Wardi, self-conscious of her place in this burgeoning field, breaks new ground by exploring how literary representations of death reconfigure the relationship between the body and place, here the physical landscapes ofthe South and the North. Tracing the mark of Jean Toomer's Cane on twentiethcentury African American literature, Wardi examines how gravesites and Studies in American Fiction251 the rites associated with them suggest cultural associations with death, dying, and the dead body, and the ways in which meaning can be located at the site of absence and loss. For Wardi, the pastoral tradition is signified on and reconstituted in contemporary works that in representing death and mourning remember a history ofoppression, segregation, and violence. Wardi's book is distinctive in its reconfiguration ofan African American literary tradition. At its center, Wardi's vernacular study explores how the African American pastoral tradition has been revitalized in contemporary novels such as Ernest Gaines's A Gathering ofOld Men, OfLove and Dust, and In My Father's House, Toni Morrison's Beloved, Song of Solomon, and Jazz, and Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills and The Men of BrewsterPlace. Wardi weaves arguments about the presence of the cemetery , the representation of slavery, the home, and exile into a comprehensive portrait of the literary representations of death and funerary practices. By crossing boundaries—those between representations of the South and the North, between the living and the dead, and between the modern and the postmodern—Wardi positions Cane as an originary text for an African American pastoral tradition. Wardi's first chapter defines the terms of her study and focuses on how the South functions as a burial site: her interest is "[t]he material history of death in the South" and the function of the North as a "site of estrangement" (29, 82). While her first three chapters define the arc of mourning in representations of the South and its dead, chapters four and five argue that urban narratives are "complicated requiems," works that problematize yet invigorate the pastoral tradition while signifying the possibility ofreturn. Ultimately, Wardi demonstrates that "grieving for the deceased becomes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 250-252
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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