By Bonnie C. Winsbro
The connection among people and their gods has continuously been a chief topic in literature. till lately, in spite of the fact that, books within the American literary canon have infrequently been focused on any supernatural beings except the Judeo-Christian god. during this publication Bonnie Winsbro strikes past that slim concentration to envision the facility of the supernatural within the works of six ethnic writers: Lee Smith's Oral historical past, Louise Erdrich's Tracks, Leslie Marmon Silko's rite, Gloria Naylor's Mama Day, Toni Morrison's liked, and Maxine Hong Kingston's the girl Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood between Ghosts. via opting for those authors, Winsbro presents a multicultural standpoint - Appalachian, local American, African American, and chinese language American - at the inner turmoil skilled by way of ethnic participants whilst their trust platforms conflict with these of relations, group, or dominant tradition. even though their responses to such conflicts vary, Winsbro argues, all six authors think that private energy is got via self-definition, the method through which one constructs one's personal truth as a starting place for residing in one's personal heart instead of on another's margins. by means of interpreting works that deal with heavily a trust in such supernatural figures as witches, healers, and ghosts, Winsbro seeks to teach that the modern global isn't really outlined by means of one fact - a rationalistic, medical fact, for instance, or a Judeo-Christian truth - yet by way of many realities. certainly, acknowledging the coexistence, collision, and coalescence of a number of realities is without doubt one of the distinguishing positive aspects of postmodern existence.
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Extra resources for Supernatural forces: belief, difference, and power in contemporary works by ethnic women
Eventually, the maintenance of the way of life desired by the dominant culture depends on the continued silencing of marginalized groups and their internalization of the dominant culture's beliefs, values, attitudes, opinions, and style. Elizabeth Janeway, exploring power relationships among humans in her book Powers of the Weak, believes that the "power to disbelieve, the first power of the weak, begins ... with the refusal to accept the definition of oneself that is put forward by the powerful....
My primary objective was to examine the works of writers from several different ethnic groups within the United States to demonstrate that the trend is a cross-cultural one; extending this examination across cultures, however, meant that I would need to limit the book in other ways. The two limitations that I chose to imposeworks written since 1970 and works written by womenwere in some ways dictated by the subject matter itself. The current interest of American ethnic writers in self-definition, for example, can be seen as a direct outgrowth of the renewed desire since the 1960s by ethnic groups of the United States to assert their differences from, rather than similarities to, the dominant culture.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Winsbro, Bonnie C. Supernatural forces : belief, difference, and power in contemporary works by ethnic women / Bonnie Winsbro. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. paper). American literatureWomen authorsHistory and criticism. Women and literatureUnited StatesHistory20th century. American literature20th centuryHistory and criticism. Title. 9'37dc20 93-4237CIP British Library Cataloguing in Publication data are available. Page v To Vic, Sandy, and Ruth, with love and deepest gratitude Page vii Contents Acknowledgments ix 1 Belief, Ethnicity, and Self-Definition 3 Ethnicity, Ethnicization, and the Ethnic Writer 12 Power through Cultural Self-Definition 17 Power through Individual Self-Definition 21 2 A Witch and Her Curse: External Definition and Uncrossable Boundaries in Lee Smith's Oral History 26 Appalachian Women and Belief 28 Granny Younger as Storyteller 30 The Making of a Witch 33 The Making of a Curse 41 Uncrossable Boundaries 45 3 Predator, Scavenger, and Trickster-Transformer: Survival and the Visionary Experience in Louise Erdrich's Tracks 52 Survival and the Visionary Experience 53 Fleur as Predator 56 Pauline as Scavenger 65 Nanapush as Trickster-Transformer 75 Page viii 4 Calling Tayo Back, Unraveling Coyote's Skin: Individuation in Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony 82 Connections, Boundaries, and Divisions 83 The Early Years: Poised between Worlds 89 The War and Its Aftermath: Cloaked in Coyote's Skin 94 Tayo's Cure: Unraveling Coyote's Skin 100 5 Modern Rationality and the Supernatural: Bridging Two Worlds in Gloria Naylor's Mama Day 109 Alternative Realities: Willow Springs and New York 110 Mama Day: Listening, Observing, and Believing as Ways to Power 112 "The Other Place": Bernice's Belief in External Forces 117 Cocoa's Illness: George's Belief in Self 120 Cocoa as the Future: Bridging Two Worlds 125 6 The Ghost as Demon and Savior: Confrontation with the Past in Toni Morrison's Beloved 129 Separation and Connection 130 Beloved as Mirror of the Other 133 Sethe: Protective Mother and Abandoned Daughter 137 Denver: Separation and Responsibility for Self 141 Paul D: Freedom, Desire, and Manhood 145 Community: Accusations, Sins, and Atonement 150 7 Warring with Ghosts: Power through Individuation in Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior 154 Living among Ghosts 155 "No Name Woman": Ghost of Silence 159 Moon Orchid: Ghost of Craziness 163 Fa Mu Lan: Spirit of Rebellion 168 Brave Orchid: Exorcist and Nightmare 173 Ts'ai Yen: A Voice Transcending Difference 178 8 Boundaries and Belief 181 Notes 191 Index 211 Page ix Acknowledgments Acknowledgments for help in completing this book are due to four groups of people: those writers and critics whose previous publications have shaped and inspired my own work; those scholars who guided me in the preparation of the dissertation on which this book is based; those readers and editors who helped me transform the dissertation into a publishable book; and those friends and family who have encouraged me throughout the writing of both dissertation and book.