Spiritual Interrogations : Culture, Gender, and Community in Early African American Women''s Writing

By: Bassard, Katherine ClayMaterial type: TextTextSeries: eBooks on DemandPrinceton Studies in Culture/Power/History: Publisher: Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1999Description: 1 online resource (194 p.)ISBN: 9781400822591Subject(s): African American women -- Intellectual life | African American women -- Religious life | African American women in literature | American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism | American literature -- African American authors -- History and criticism | American literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism | Christianity and literature -- United States | Community life in literature | Religion and literature -- United States | Spiritual life in literature | Spirituals (Songs) -- History and criticism | Wheatley, Phillis, 1753-1784 -- Religion | Women and literature -- United StatesGenre/Form: Electronic books.Additional physical formats: Print version:: Spiritual Interrogations : Culture, Gender, and Community in Early African American Women''s WritingDDC classification: 810.9/382 LOC classification: PS153.N5 B33 1999Online resources: Click here to view this ebook.
Contents:
Book Cover; Title; Copyright; Contents
Summary: The late eighteenth century witnessed an influx of black women to the slave-trading ports of the American Northeast. The formation of an early African American community, bound together by shared experiences and spiritual values, owed much to these women''s voices. The significance of their writings would be profound for all African Americans'' sense of their own identity as a people. Katherine Clay Bassard''s book is the first detailed account of pre-Emancipation writings from the period of 1760 to 1863, in light of a developing African American religious culture and emerging free black communities. Her study--which examines the relationship among race, culture, and community--focuses on four women: the poet Phillis Wheatley and poet and essayist Ann Plato, both Congregationalists; and the itinerant preacher Jarena Lee, and Shaker eldress Rebecca Cox Jackson, who, with Lee, had connections with African Methodism. Together, these women drew on what Bassard calls a "spirituals matrix," which transformed existing literary genres to accommodate the spiritual music and sacred rituals tied to the African diaspora. Bassard''s important illumination of these writers resurrects their path-breaking work. They were cocreators, with all black women who followed, of African American intellectual life.
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Book Cover; Title; Copyright; Contents

The late eighteenth century witnessed an influx of black women to the slave-trading ports of the American Northeast. The formation of an early African American community, bound together by shared experiences and spiritual values, owed much to these women''s voices. The significance of their writings would be profound for all African Americans'' sense of their own identity as a people. Katherine Clay Bassard''s book is the first detailed account of pre-Emancipation writings from the period of 1760 to 1863, in light of a developing African American religious culture and emerging free black communities. Her study--which examines the relationship among race, culture, and community--focuses on four women: the poet Phillis Wheatley and poet and essayist Ann Plato, both Congregationalists; and the itinerant preacher Jarena Lee, and Shaker eldress Rebecca Cox Jackson, who, with Lee, had connections with African Methodism. Together, these women drew on what Bassard calls a "spirituals matrix," which transformed existing literary genres to accommodate the spiritual music and sacred rituals tied to the African diaspora. Bassard''s important illumination of these writers resurrects their path-breaking work. They were cocreators, with all black women who followed, of African American intellectual life.

Description based upon print version of record.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

CHOICE Review

Arguing "spiritual interrogation" as a "matrix of discursive interventions" conferring a sense of personhood for black women denied by hegemonic constructions of African American female subjectivity, Bassard provides a critical perspective both absent from African American studies and pivotal to the tradition of African American women writers. Bassard's research continues that of Paul Gilroy and Houston Baker but changes the focus to literate, Northern-born, pre-Emancipation black women writers born in the 1700s. Establishing a material connection between poet Phyllis Wheatley and poet/essayist Ann Plato, and between preachers Jarena Lee and Rebecca Cox Jackson, Bassard interrogates notions of "vernacular" and "authenticity" in African diasporic literary criticism. She devotes two of seven chapters to Wheatley, reframing theories of displacement within which Wheatley and Plato are read; chapters on Lee and Jackson frame a Bloomsian analysis of revisions in the "quest for community" narrative in terms of differences in Shaker and Methodist theology toward gender and sexuality. Of particular interest is Bassard's reconstruction of Kongo cosmology in Jackson's writings, and the use of Bakhtin's later writing to demonstrate ways in which early black women's writing anticipates Bakhtin's theorizing. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. A. J. Gosselin Cleveland State University

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Katherine Clay Bassard is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. Her articles have been published in African American Review and Callaloo.

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