Manual Speaking Power: Black Feminist Orality in Women’s Narratives of Slavery

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Link Network. The concept Slave narratives -- United States -- History and criticism represents the subject, aboutness, idea or notion of resources found in University Of Pikeville.

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Antebellum slave narratives : cultural and political expressions of Africa, Jermaine O. Archer, electronic resource. Borrow it. Fugitive testimony : on the visual logic of slave narratives, Janet Neary.

Speaking power : Black feminist orality in women's narratives of slavery, DoVeanna S. Fulton, electronic resource. Context Context of Slave narratives -- United States -- History and criticism Subject of Antebellum slave narratives : cultural and political expressions of Africa Fugitive testimony : on the visual logic of slave narratives Speaking power : Black feminist orality in women's narratives of slavery. Embed Experimental. Layout options: Carousel Grid List Card.

Include data citation:. The significance of orality and voice lies also in the fact that it is a form of resistance in itself. Oral language is not only the most fundamental form of self-expression but one of the features inextricably linked with our human nature. To deprive someone of their speech and voice is to deprive them of their sovereignty as individuals and their human identity; it is one of the most powerful and effective ways of oppression and dehumanization that can be applied both on individuals and social groups.

The silencing of a social group can be materialized in several ways, literal and metaphorical, which both women and the black community have been experiencing consistently throughout history.

On the other hand, research results have revealed that women, having been raised with specific prescriptions as to what femininity entails, eventually internalize these prescriptions even from their early childhood. In this light, voice itself becomes a symbol of resistance and self-assertion at the same time.


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While written language encloses discreteness, in the sense that the reading of a written text lies in the discretion and the conscious decision of the reader, oral language is more pervasive and even imposing. The fact the Cortez delivers her anti-racist and anti-sexist message through the spoken word becomes itself part of the message, part of the struggle against the oppression that women and blacks have undergone so far.

However, the significance of orality and performativity as forms of resistance and means of construction of a collective identity also depends on the diversity that both oral language and voice embody as products of a physical or bodily process. On the one hand, voice is made out of a set of physical characteristics, such as pitch, intonation, timbre, and volume. A woman can be identified as such because of her pitch and intonation, while an African American can be identified as such because of their black accent and the use of the black idiom.

Thus, the adoption and use of the African American vernacular is itself an assertion of the African American identity. Interestingly, while social groups which are less prestigious usually tend to imitate the language of more prestigious groups, it is often the case that a social group of lower prestige promotes and adheres consciously and deliberately to its own idiom.

This is exactly the case with the African American vernacular not only in the context of the Black Power or the Black Arts Movement but even today. Additionally, her linguistic choices are also significant within the Black Feminist perspective. At the same time, however, it is exactly the infinite possible combinations of all the different values of the vocal characteristics that make voice unique to every individual, almost like a fingerprint.

This materiality is particularly characteristic of the Beat Generation poetry, and especially the poetry of Allen Ginsberg.

Like Ginsberg, Cortez also utilizes the breath as the unit of her poetry adapting these breath-units to measures deriving from African American music, and creating a chantlike effect Nielsen For the Beat poets, voice, like breath, is as much a physical as a meta-physical process. Hence, communication and spirituality are interrelated. Voice is a result of a bodily process, of the vibration of the vocal chords and the amplifying effect of resonance created in the oral cavities.

This process, however, is initiated in the diaphragm, which is perceived as the source of cosmic energy in Buddhism and meditation practices. Thus, although the breathing pattern and the voice per se are unique to each individual and, consequently, the poetic experience becomes itself a unique, unprecedented experience every time the poem is performed anew, it is at the same time a communal experience since it emerges out of the same physical process that all individuals share.

Racism and sexism are not simply theoretical concepts. Thus, apart from urbanism, Cortez also adopts the fluidity, the irony, the juxtaposition of the familiar and the unfamiliar, as well as the postmodern contingency and indeterminacy that New York poets utilize in the poetry.

It is eventually through the transformation of images and experiences into language that Cortez manages to communicate her strong political messages and at the same time to re-define language and poetry. On a political level, the combination of the perspectives of both the Black Arts Movement and Black Feminism with the orality and performativity of Jazz and Blues music, allows her to emphasize the effects of racism and sexism, and at the same time to re-enforce the solidarity, self-confidence and self-determination of both the black and the female community.

On a literary level, the orality and performativity of her poetry manage to challenge the literary tradition of New Criticism and re-establish the significance of language as a means of identity, expression, resistance and, more importantly, communication. In this light, by re-defining and re-instating poetry as a communal, interactive and communicative experience, and by emphasizing the original meaning of poetry as the process of creation, Cortez manages to promote the power of poetry as a means of social, political and individual re-creation against any form of oppression.

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Speaking Power: Black Feminist Orality in Women's Narratives of Slavery by DoVeanna Fulton Minor

Ballard, Audreen. Bolden, Tony. Brown, Kimberly Nichele. Bloomington; Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, Cortez, Jayne. Bola Press. Sex Differences in Human Communication. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Elam, Harry J.

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New York: Oxford University Press, Ellington, Duke. A Drum is a Woman. Columbia, Fulton, DoVeanna S. Grandison Parsons, Charles. Melhem, D. Neal, Larry. Nielsen, Aldon Lynn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,