Black Mothers and the National Body Politic: The Narrative Positioning of the Black Maternal Body from the Civil War Period through the Present focuses on the struggles and triumphs of black motherhood in six works of narrative prose composed from the Civil War period through the present. Andrea Powell Wolfe examines the functioning of the black maternal body to both define and undermine ideal white womanhood; the physical scarring of the black mother and the reclamation of the black maternal body as a site of subversion and nurturance as well as erotic empowerment; and the construction of oppressive discourses surrounding black female bodies and reproduction and the development of resistance to these types of discourses. These tensions undergird a multifaceted discussion of the narrative positioning of the black maternal body within and in relationship to the national body politic, an inherently exclusionary and restrictive metaphorical entity constructed and socially contracted over time by an already politically empowered citizenry. Ultimately, close analysis of the texts under study suggests that the United States--as a figurative body complete with imagined "parts" that perform separate functions, from intelligence to labor, ingestion to expulsion--has simultaneously used and cast off the black maternal body over the course of centuries.
About the Author
Andrea Powell Wolfe teaches literature, composition, and humanities at Ball State University.