Date of Award

12-9-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Kenneth Sherwood, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Veronica Watson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael T. Williamson, Ph.D.

Abstract

“Mother Utters: Struggle and Subversion in the Works of Gwendolyn Brooks” explores how Brooks uses women's speech and traditional classical poetic forms to struggle with and subvert the predominant social, moral, and political systems which impede class mobility and oppress African Americans in general and African American women in particular. To transform the identity and role of African American women, Brooks assigns central roles to women, particularly to mothers, in most of her early works. In this way, she brings them from invisibility to visibility and from objects to subjects. In order to analyze these works and this phenomenon, particularly, I utilize Black Feminist theory. Brooks’s poetry also reflects the fine blending of classical and popular poetic forms. The tension between aesthetic and politics is one of the prominent features of Brooks’s works. I explore how she skillfully and artistically transforms classical poetic forms, such as the sonnet and ballad, and uses them to protest against and destabilize the preexisting value systems and also how she maintains a delicate balance between aesthetic and politics in her poems. In her 1968 volume In the Mecca, we find a shift in her art of narration: The use of diverse subjects, interior speech and polyvocality in this dramatic poem enable it to operate on many levels. I investigate what this shift in the narration signifies and how it effects her poetic and political vision. Maud Martha, Brooks’s sole novel enhances the themes of resistance and subversion that we find in her first two volumes of poetry. It also heralds the idea of an essential “sanity.” I also look at Brooks’s works from multi-social and cross-cultural context with the help of Bakhtin’s theory of “dialogism.” I try to understand Brooks’s women in relation to Pakistani social and cultural contexts and explore the feasibility of teaching Brooks to Pakistani students at the end of the dissertation.

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