Book Reviews -- Mythmaking and Metaphor in Black Women's Fiction by Jacqueline De Weever
Foor, Sheila M., Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)
Mythmaking and Metaphor in Black Women 's Fiction. Jacqueline de Weever. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991. 194 pp.
Mythmaking and Metaphor in Black Women's Fiction is a work of serious scholarship and deserves close reading. Seventeen novels of seven Black-American women writers are examined to "demonstrate how they reshape figures from old mythologies, how they create new myths from old structures and how they give new meaning to particular motifs of myth...by transforming them into metaphors for psychological growth" (1). de Weever argues persuasively that Black-American female writers are ROW our contemporary mythographers. That Black-American writers utilize myth should not be surprising given this country's history. The painful results of three centuries of oppression, de Weever asserts, is too great to confronted in a realistic mode. This text identifies four sources of mythology which are woven together into Black-American women's writing--European, African, Black-American and Native American--with the most frequently recurring motif being that of suffering that brings transformation and life.
de Weever examines novels that portray the Black-American woman's complex experience, noting that "syncretism and synthesis, evident in the world's richest cultures, have begun in the novels of Black-American women, where the three worlds of American civilization--the Indian world, the African world and. the European world--are integrated through their mythologies" (16). Chapter One is entitled "Mythmaking: Intertextuality, Inversion, and Metaphor." Chapter Two, "Metaphors of Transformation: Birds, Insects, Snakes," argues that "the capacity of metaphor to illuminate 'untranslatable experiences' is startlingly borne out in the metaphors of insects and animals," yet de Weever cautions that a writer may use an image for decidedly opposite experience in various works. Incorporating images closely connected with the earth and metaphors connected with it are invaluable for exploring the theme of psychological growth of characters.
Chapter Three, "Metaphors of Alienation: Madness, Malaise, and Solitude," argues convincingly that the ideal of the chaste, passive wife "is not and cannot be relevant for black women, who face the struggle for economic, personal and intellectual viability every day of their lives" (96-97) but that "introspective, interior suffering has gradually become a topic in black women's fiction during the last thirty years" (97). …