Year of Publication

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Trask

Abstract

“Women of the Apocalypse: Feminist Afrospeculative Writers,” seeks to address the problematic ‘Exodus narrative,’ a convention that has helped shape Black American liberation politics dating back to the writings of Phyllis Wheatley. Novels by Zora Neale Hurston, Octavia Butler, and Alice Walker undermine and complicate this narrative by challenging the trope of a single charismatic male leader who leads an entire race to a utopic promised land. For these writers, the Exodus narrative is unsustainable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because there is no room for women to operate outside of the role of supportive wives. The mode of speculative fiction is well suited to crafting counter-narratives to Exodus mythology because of its ability to place marginalized voices in the center from the stance of ‘What next?’

My project is a hybrid in that I combine critical theory with original poems. The prose section of each chapter contextualizes a novel and its author with regard to Exodus mythology. However, because novels can only reveal so much about character development, I identify spaces to engage and elaborate upon the conversation incited by these authors’ feminist protagonists. In the tradition of Black American poets such as, Ai, Patricia Smith, Rita Dove, and Tyehimba Jess, in my own personal creative work, I regularly engage historical figures through recovering the narratives of underrepresented voices. To write in persona or limited omniscient, spotlighting an event where the reader possesses incomplete information surrounding a character’s experience, the result becomes a kind of call-and-response interaction with these novels.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2017.177

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