"Powers from the Deep": Ethnic Cultural Memory and Wholeness Theory in Fiction by African American and Chicana Women

Adams, Helane. "Powers from the Deep": Ethnic Cultural Memory and Wholeness Theory in Fiction by African American and Chicana Women. 2002. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

Adviser: Johnnella Butler

This project demonstrates how parallel rhetorical strategies of resistance and affirmation in testimonial resistance literatures by African American and Chicana women encourage consideration of the intersections between politics of race, ethnicity, gender, language, history and social reform. This study also highlights how testimony in these women's literatures allows for comparison without negation of the fundamental differences occurring within each group's cultural memory. Examination of these texts shows how memory interacts with language, temporality and representation within to illuminate collective consciousness while envisioning an individual and communal wholeness. I argue the necessity of these testimonies as functions of ethnic cultural memory to the progression of these women from fragmentation and imbalance toward wholeness and healing. I articulate this process as “reflective redemption” as an effort to re-center theory within ethnic literary traditions and in recognition of the ritual process of empowerment that these authors suggest in their treatment of protagonists' biopsychosocial ailments. I compliment my theoretical framework using Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, Denise Chávez's Face of an Angel, Toni Morrison's only short story “Recitatif” and Helena María Viramontes' “Tears on My Pillow” because of the complex ways they portray individual and communal healing and wholeness. The overall aim is to contribute to the foundation of African American and Chicana women's studies and literary theory, to magnify parallelisms often overlooked in the analysis of American ethnic literatures, and to enter the discussion of the development of American ethnic literary theory and pedagogy.

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