This essay explores two novels in which individual female maturity develops in relation to a wider female community: Maryse Condé’s 1986 Moi, Tituba, sorcière, noire de Salem and Nicole Brossard’s 1987 Le désert mauve. In both of these novels, coming-of-age is performed in large part through relationships between and among women, and female community is both the vehicle for and the marker of female maturity. Moreover, each work steps outside the confines of traditional narrative realism in its portrayal of female community and maturity. While the collective vision of each novel differs in terms of context and political engagement – Condé’s novel addresses the legacy of slavery in the Caribbean and the United States, examining racial as well as gendered oppression, and Brossard’s novel explores lesbian solidarity, bringing together feminism and postmodern narrative aesthetics in the context of Québécois “écriture experimentale” – both texts emphasize the importance of female community to the development of their protagonists, and to the process of resisting patriarchal definitions of femininity and womanhood. In this essay, my argument is two-fold: first, that the formative process in these novels is transformed by female communities and the relationships among women that they imagine; and second, that these novels’ combination of coming-of-age, community, and alternative narrative structures offers feminist writers promising avenues for resisting patriarchal reality and creating alternative feminist configurations of female maturity.


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pp. 46-60
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