Date of Award

Winter 12-16-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth West

Second Advisor

Dr. Lisa Yaszek

Third Advisor

Dr. Reiner Smolinski

Abstract

For over 200 years, Black women authors in the United States have cautioned that erasing the perspective of Black women also potentially obliterates the communities Black women have historically held together, and the roles these women have played in spearheading and supporting socio-political movements. This erasure also, as it relates to this dissertation, dismisses the art forms — such as literature — that reflect the related triumphs and struggles associated with the ways Black women engage the interlocking oppressions of race and gender. This study proposes that Black speculative fiction written by women can be considered liberation biomythographies that offer a unique contribution to the legacy of Black women employing the written word as a tool of liberation. This argument will be supported by employing Audre Lorde’s biomythography Zami as a womanist, literary, theory that illustrates self-actualization as a starting point for Black women’s liberation. The efficacy of Zami as a womanist theoretical framework will be illustrated through an analysis of the Black women protagonists in Octavia Butler’s Xenogensis and Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon.

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