Date of Award

1999

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Michelle A. Masse

Second Advisor

Patrick McGee

Abstract

Taking my cue from Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark, I read three contemporary Black writers in the Americas---George Lamming, Barbados; Michelle Cliff, Jamaica; and Jess Mowry, United States---for signs of a response that was ignored when prevailing conceptions of freedom were formulated in early America. Suggesting that the vision embodied in the name of one plantation, Sans Souci, characterized attempts to deal with the anxieties of a slaveholding free republic, I argue that these writers provide an alternative vision by attempting to reconcile the practices of freedom and care, and I engage their vision in dialogue with several theoretical discourses that currently inform the practice of freedom. In In the Castle of My Skin and Natives of My Person , Lamming moves toward a definition of freedom that encourages responsiveness and allows political agency by criticizing classical notions of independence and promoting notions of intersubjective and dynamic autonomy. Cliff's Abeng and No Telephone to Heaven and Mowry's Way Past Cool similarly critique notions of freedom associated with theories of moral development. Situating their work on a continuum with slave narratives that negotiated ideologies of domesticity, I argue that they contest assumptions that an ethic of care is naturally aligned with confinement and the private sphere. Care can function like an abeng, a tool that can be used for oppression or liberation. Cliff and Mowry pursue freedom and justice through a practice that I formulate as warrior-caregiving. Cliff retrieves this revolutionary practice for the relatively privileged from the model of Maroon warriors; Mowry encourages it among the least privileged by combining the models of the Little Rascals and the Black Panthers in an adolescent gang I describe, nonpejoratively, as "Buckwheat Panthers." I conclude that care must complement the practice of freedom for either homemaking or travelling to move beyond the master-slave dynamic. I combine Lugones's concept of "world"-travelling with Lamming's image of mobile homes to identify an alternative mode of habitation and travel and then with the notion of privilege-cognizant scripts to describe a practice that could replace the typical tourist's mode of carefree travel.

ISBN

9780599252370

Pages

252

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