Eroticism, Spirituality, and Resistance in Black Women's Writings

Donna Aza Weir-Soley

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"Successfully undertakes an analysis of how black women writers, beginning with Zora Neale Hurston in her masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God, have used overlapping narrative depictions of sexuality and spirituality to recast the denigrated black female body and rewrite an empowered and fully actualized black female subject."--Candice M. Jenkins, Hunter College, CUNY

"Weir-Soley speaks with an authority that comes from real knowledge of, investment in, and attention to the details of the African cosmologies and textual complexities she unearths."--Carine Mardorossian, SUNY-Buffalo

"The most original and significant contributions are the often brilliant readings of Morrison, Adisa, and Danticat. The work is riveting, both methodologically and critically."--Leslie Sanders, York University

Western European mythology and history tend to view spirituality and sexuality as opposite extremes. But sex can be more than a function of the body and religion more than a function of the mind, as exemplified in the works and characters of such writers as Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Opal Palmer Adisa, and Edwidge Danticat.

Donna Weir-Soley builds on the work of previous scholars who have identified the ways that black women's narratives often contain a form of spirituality rooted in African cosmology, which consistently grounds their characters' self-empowerment and quest for autonomy. What she adds to the discussion is an emphasis on the importance of sexuality in the development of black female subjectivity, beginning with Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and continuing into contemporary black women's writings.

Writing in a clear, lucid, and straightforward style, Weir-Soley supports her thesis with close readings of various texts, including Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and Morrison's Beloved. She reveals how these writers highlight the interplay between the spiritual and the sexual through religious symbols found in Voudoun, Santeria, Condomble, Kumina, and Hoodoo. Her arguments are particularly persuasive in proposing an alternative model for black female subjectivity.

Donna Aza Weir-Soley is associate professor of English at Florida International University.

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"An important work because it expands our knowledge of the syncretism in the fictions of Hurston, Morrison, Adisa, and Danticat, and recognizes the vitality of the West African worldview as a means of resisting Western paradigms which are inimical to black female subjectivity. Weir-Soley's scrupulous deconstruction of the assumptions that surround black female sexuality has many implications not only in literature, but also in how we look at each other and ourselves in the mirror."

Captures one of the most challenging concerns of scholars who engage black women's literature, culture, and theory: the ongoing quest to locate a form of black female sexual agency that neither withers in the chilly lake of sexual repression nor explodes in the heat of hypersexual stereotypes.The insights revealed in Eroticism, Spirituality, and Resistance in Black Women's Writings provide an instructive and necessary intervention in where and how we locate, finally, a liberatory erotics of black female expressivity. MELUS: Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States

"Weir-Soley's underyling promise is that the divorce in Western cosmology of the body and the mind, the physical and the spiritual, leads to disruption and imbalance in the female psyche, and that in order to regain equanimity (black) women must incorporate their physical bodies and sexual expression into an acceptance of their entire being." African American Review

"In this provocative yet diffuse text, Donna Aza Weir-Soley articulates the importance of embodied, erotic spirituality to black female subjectivity and empowerment." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

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