Date of Award

7-1-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)

School

School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

D.A.H.

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Viktor Osinubi

Second Advisor

Dr. Susan Wright

Third Advisor

Dr. Timothy Askew

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the works of two Black female writers: Flora Nwapa(African and Nigerian) and Zora Neale Hurston (African American). Although theycome from different geographical regions, both writers use the same rchetypal patterns to create strong female protagonists. By characterizing protagonists in their novels from an African religious cultural perspective, both authors dismantle the stereotypical images of how black women are typically portrayed in fiction. Using Jung's theory of the collective unconscious and archetypal criticism the study finds that both authors create black female protagonists who are wise, resilient, decisive, courageous, independent, and risk-taking; the women who, through their self-discovery journeys, are neither defined by nor in oppositional relationships with the males in their lives.

The study compares how the qualities of two archetypal goddesses, Uhamiri of the Igbo cosmology and Oya of the Yoruba cosmology, are personified through the personalities of the two female protagonists in Nwapa's Efuru and Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, respectively. Using strong mythical females as templates, this research explores the ways in which the authors have defined their female characters, thus providing an alternative strategy for defining and analyzing black female characters in fiction.

The study asserts that literary interpretation of Africana women should include the cultural realities associated with the African religious framework in order to capture the full essence of their humanity. In addition, African feminist thought, unlike Western feminist theory, provides a more realistic model of discourse on Africana women's selfidentity. Examining Africana women from these perspectives, as opposed to analyzing them based on European standards, is an effective method of discrediting stereotypical images that continue to plague the portrayal of black women in fiction. When black women in fiction are explored from this vantage point, the literary work sends a message of cultural authenticity and preservation that elevates Africana women, expanding their functions and positions in society beyond traditional roles.

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