Saving the Mother: Community and Liberation in Kingston and Morrison

Joy Wang (Oxford University, UK)

Virginia Woolf's essay, "The Angel in the House," and Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence, are two central texts of the Western intellectual canon that argue a writer's originality can only be achieved by a violent rebellion against one's predecessors. In this paper I contrast the development of contemporary minority women's writing against the norms of the Western canon. By examining Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior and Toni Morrison's Beloved I will show how the idea of "saving the mother" is a unique and central driving force of contemporary minority women's writing. Although both the main mother-figures in Beloved and Woman Warrior are guilty of propagating historical forms of oppression, they are not "slain" but rather incorporated into the project of liberation. The desire of Kingston and Morrison to rescue their mothers characterizes ethnic women's quest for freedom as a more gradual and communal ambition. As writers such as Kingston and Morrison gain increasing recognition at the centre of western literary studies, they may potentially transform romantic notions of the writer as a revolutionary individualist into the writer as a link between fragments of history.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001