Reading silence actively: Recovering the maternal narrative in contemporary women's novels




Pantuso, Terri B.

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This project uses an interdisciplinary methodology derived from linguistic, rhetorical, critical race, feminist, and third-space feminist theories to examine how close discursive analysis reveals counter-hegemonic tendencies in maternal characters who use silence as a source of linguistic empowerment. In my analysis, I compare novels published post-1985 by both white and black American women to demonstrate an emerging cross-racial dialectic concerning American feminist mothering and the role of silence in literature. Throughout my dissertation, I explore how silence has been used by contemporary women authors publishing post-1985 to subvert various forms of oppression, as well as to recover via a palimpsestic methodology matrilineal heritages that have been left unwritten. Specifically, I focus on Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa Rose (1986), Ellen Douglas's Can't Quit You, Baby (1988), Kaye Gibbons's Ellen Foster (1987), Dori Sanders's Clover (1990), Sapphire's PUSH (1996), Kim Edwards's The Memory Keeper's Daughter (2005), Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone (2001), and Nancy Rawles's My Jim (2005). Throughout this project, I demonstrate the progressive, transformational use of silence as a rhetorical strategy by contemporary American women writers as a discursive method of non-oppositional feminist dialogue.


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feminist, linguistic, palimpsest, recovery, rhetorical, transformative