The body in the text: female engagements with Black identity
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This dissertation examines novels by Jessie Fauset, Nella Larsen, Jamaica Kincaid, and Edwidge Danticat, focusing on their treatment of the gendered component of racial identity formation through the figure of the female body, which operates as a marker of female social experience. In each case, the female body is the sign by which we read female exclusion from discursive constructions of Black identity in literature and society. While the texts are rooted in their individual Diasporic locations, the themes they encode, like Black female sexual desire, the political functions of consumption, and patriarchal constructions of femininity and the strategies they employ derive from a Black female aesthetic that privileges the incorporation of multiple subject positions through innovative narrative approaches. Tracing the emergence of a feminist narrative aesthetic from the synthesis of existing genres in the United States in the early twentieth century to the innovation of new structuring principles rooted in Caribbean literary practice in the latter part of the century, I draw the conclusion that taking a trans-historical and trans-regional approach demonstrates that in their attempts to formulate strategies of approach to the project of revising Black male articulations of Black identity Black women have formed a separate and distinctive writing community that draws on a gendered, rather than national language, to delineate their distinctive Black identities.