African American Studies

By Jeanette R. Davidson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
Perspectives on Womanism,
Black Feminism, and Africana
Womanism

Maria D. Davidson

University of Oklahoma

and Scott Davidson

Oklahoma City University


INTRODUCTION

Scholarly criticism always happens after the fact. From an historical distance, scholars wonder whether Phillis Wheatley1intended that some of her poetry should be read through the lens of irony, or whether Linda Brent2intended Harriet Jacobs to be her alter-ego or an expression of her actual self (or both).3 In addition to being a possible obstacle to understanding, historical distance can also be an aid to understanding, as when it allows scholars to perceive commonalities that might unite a group of writers, artists or theorists. For example, looking back on the past, literary scholars now label George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats as British Romantic poets,4 and philosophers now label Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre5 as existentialists, even when these thinkers might not have associated themselves with one another. The same can be said for the category of Womanist literature. Scholars today regularly classify authors such as Anna Julia Cooper, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Toni Morrison under the heading of Womanist literature.6 This naturally raises the question as to what leads these authors to be placed under this category, and whether these authors are indeed related to one another in important ways or whether this category is merely imposed on them by scholars.

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