Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature

By Kathy J. Whitson | Go to book overview

growing consciousness of the inherent masculinity of language itself. Kari Weil, in response to these conflicts, proposed the use of the term hermaphrodite instead, where the male/female union is “forever incomplete, two bodies competing with, rather than completing, each other.” This distinction—between competition and completion—continues to shape justifications of “variant” gender combinations, which, in turn, feeds the poststructuralist effort to reevaluate the very concept of gender.


References and Suggested Readings
Heilbrun, Carolyn G. Toward a Recognition of Androgyny. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973.
Medicine, Beatrice. “Gender.” Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Ed. Frederick E. Hoxie. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. 216-18.
Weil, Kari. Androgyny and the Denial of Difference. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1992.
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. New York: Harcourt & Brace, 1989.

See also Woolf, Virginia.

Lisa R. Williams

ANGELOU, MAYA

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928, Angelou was raised in Stamps, Arkansas, by her Grandmother Johnson, affectionately called Momma. Her name “Maya” is the childhood name given to her by her brother, Bailey, in his attempt to say “mine.” Her childhood was tragically marked when she was raped by her mother's boyfriend. When she reported the rape and then the boyfriend was killed, presumably by the vigilantism of her uncles, Maya was overwhelmed by the power of language. She responded to the trauma and to her sense of guilt by refusing to speak. During her five years of muteness, Angelou read voraciously and reconciled herself to the beautiful power of language. From that love of language, Angelou has forged a place in American letters and has become perhaps our most visible public poet.

Angelou's range as an artist is noteworthy: She is a poet, playwright, memoirist, actress, singer, and dancer. In her desire for social justice, Angelou has worked in the civil rights movement, serving as the Northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and has protested at the United Nations after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba of the Belgian Congo. In her later years, she has taught at many universities and now holds for life the Reynolds Chair at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, an endowed chair that offers her the chance to teach any subject in the field of Humanities.

At the request of her fellow Arkansan, President Bill Clinton, Angelou read “On the Pulse of the Morning” at his first inauguration on January 20, 1993. Continuing in her role as a public poet, Angelou read her “A Brave and Startling

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