Crossing Borders through Folklore: African American Women's Fiction and Art

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9780826211996: Crossing Borders through Folklore: African American Women's Fiction and Art

Examining works by Toni Morrison, Paule Marshall, Faith Ringgold, and Betye Saar, this innovative book frames black women's aesthetic sensibilities across art forms. Investigating the relationship between vernacular folk culture and formal expression, this study establishes how each of the four artists engaged the identity issues of the 1960s and used folklore as a strategy for crossing borders in the works they created during the following two decades.

As a dynamic, open-ended process, folklore historically has enabled African-descended people to establish differential identity, resist dominance, and affirm group solidarity. This book documents the use of expressive forms of folklore in the fiction of Morrison and Marshall and the use of material forms of folklore in the visual representations of Ringgold and Saar. Offering a conceptual paradigm of a folk aesthetic to designate the practices these women use to revise and reverse meanings—especially meanings imposed on images such as Aunt Jemima and Sambo—Crossing Borders through Folklore explains how these artists locate sites of intervention and reconnection. From these sites, in keeping with the descriptive and prescriptive formulations for art during the sixties, Morrison, Marshall, Ringgold, and Saar articulate new dimensions of consciousness and creatively theorize identity.

Crossing Borders through Folklore is a significant and creative contribution to scholarship in both established and still- emerging fields. This volume also demonstrates how recent theorizing across scholarly disciplines has created elastic metaphors that can be used to clarify a number of issues. Because of its interdisciplinary approach, this study will appeal to students and scholars in many fields, including African American literature, art history, women's studies, diaspora studies, and cultural studies.

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Alma Jean Billingslea-Brown is Associate Professor of English at Spelman College in Atlanta.

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"Overall, her navigation of the borders between visual art and literature, her ability to mediate between the masculinist impulse of the black arts movement and feminism, as well as her juxtaposition of European/mainstream art and the aesthetics and politics of minority art, provides a constant argument for the folk aesthetic, which she positions as the 'fecunding matrix' that allows artists to traverse the shifting slopes of identity politics and avant-garde asthetics that comprise the postmodernist art of the 1990s."—Novel, A Forum on Fiction

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