A theory of African-American archetypes: big mama and the whistlin' woman

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ETD Collection for AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library

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http://digitalcommons.auctr.edu/dissertations/201; http://digitalcommons.auctr.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1752&context=dissertations
Holston, Jan Alexia
DigitalCommons@Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center
Arts and Humanities
thesis / dissertation description
This study introduces a literary Theory of African-American Archetypes, which is an outgrowth of two parent theories, Archetypal Criticism and African-American Literary Criticism. The theory posits that the folklore of Africana peoples created and inform culturally specific archetypes, which are deeply seeded in the collective unconscious of many African Americans. As in life, such archetypes are prevalent in African-American literature, which is momentous because they are both historic and perpetual within the community. The African-American Archetypal Big Mama is the character that will be used to demonstrate the theory as a viable form of literary criticism, using Gloria Naylor’s Mama day. Examination of her opposite, the Whistlin’ Woman, in Tina McElroy Ansa’s Ugly Ways and Taking After Mudear will substantiate and define the African-American Archetypal Big Mama by negation. Elucidation and application of the theory to African American literature are significant because they widen the criticism particularly for texts by and for African Americans. Additionally, the application opens the doors for critics of multi-ethnic literature to examine their own cultural idiosyncrasies and subsequent lore for archetypes explicit to their literary traditions.