LITTLE EVA REVISITED
[T]he most ferocious practices in relation to women get counted as authentic culture. And women become spokespersons for their own dismemberment ...
Donna Haraway, “A Conversation
with Donna Haraway”
In times of crisis and great suffering, such as wars and mass epidemics, the figure of the idealized, good woman as modest and selfless, sacrificing her own individuality for the good of family, community, and nation, has repeatedly emerged in Western culture as a balm and source of comfort. 1 This allegorical female figure has also been used to mediate controversial political, social, and moral issues. Slavery in the nineteenth century and the antislavery movement that sprung up in response, and AIDS and AIDS politics in the late twentieth century, are just two examples of national “crisis” and public controversy that have been tempered by evoking white maternal femininity. 2
For example, Joseph Roach has suggested that the closest analogue to Tony Kushner's world-famous, Pulitzer Prize-winning Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (Savran, 207). 3 Just as Stowe was able to tap into the pulse of the nation and articulate its guilt, sin, and confusion over slavery, so did Kushner transform the stigma of AIDS, homosexuality, and mortality into an entertaining, two-part epic. Both Stowe and Kushner approach their controversial themes through the icon of the devotional mother. 4 Stowe's novel includes a large cast of mothers, many of whom are separated from their children through death or slavery; Kushner populates his work with eccentric yet nurturing angels and surrogate mother figures and caretakers. Each writer presents a radical text that is laced with a conservative nostalgia for feminine nurturance.