Monday, November 19, 2012

Crystal Lucky

I teach 19th and 20th century African American literature, including fugitive slave narratives, contemporary novels of slavery, works of the Harlem Renaissance, the African American short story and the works of Toni Morrison and August Wilson.

While my teaching range is somewhat broad, my research interests are focused on the narrative and cultural productions of black women preachers. My current book project, On the Threshing Floor: African American Women’s Piety in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, seeks to trace the image of the pious black woman, whom I define as dedicated to enacting and promoting the tenets of Protestant Christianity, as both an historical and a cultural figure from her appearance in autobiographical and expository writing and visual images of the nineteenth century through her reinvention in American literary and popular cultural forms of the early- to mid- twentieth century. The study posits that fictionalized representations of black women’s piety often contradict the documented histories of black pious women as respected members of their civic and religious communities and as important contributors to the progression of the black church during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. From the 1830s to the 1890s, the black pious woman was most often identified as an itinerant preacher, public speaker and leader of her enslaved brothers and sisters in the narrative productions of a black women’s intellectual tradition. As the century progressed and transitioned into the next, however, popular representations of black women’s piety replaced the women’s own narrative depictions of themselves within an American cultural imagination. The pious black woman of the 1890’s through the 1950’s reemerged in hyper-sexualized, emotional, irrational, and blindly devoted iterations in fiction, film and visual images. Such representations belied the women’s earlier descriptions of themselves as clear-thinking, intelligent, faithful, and adhering to socially conservative middle-class deportment. Ultimately, I wish to draw conclusions about how black women's piety has functioned in American culture and how it has gained considerable capital in contemporary society.

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