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Speaking in Tongues and Dancing DiasporaBlack Women Writing and Performing$
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Mae G. Henderson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195116595

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.001.0001

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“Seen But Not Heard”

“Seen But Not Heard”

Chapter:
(p.115) 6 “Seen But Not Heard”
Source:
Speaking in Tongues and Dancing Diaspora
Author(s):

Mae G. Henderson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.003.0007

In response to Houston Baker’s “There Is No More Beautiful Way: Theory and Poetics of Afro-American Women’s Writing,” the chapter expands Baker’s self-professed autobiographical “metalevel negotiations” to the plane of “multi-metalevel negotiations” in black women’s writing. Critiquing the controlling function of the visual in Baker’s poetics, it maintains that the gaze—even the felicitous gaze—relegates women to the status of object. Cautioning Baker against privileging the dominance of the scopic drive implicit in his focus on “imagistic fields,” the chapter proposes that black feminists disrupt the white/ male gaze in the embrace of a range of black female subjectivities and experiences, an approach that would include not only the “felicitous images” proposed by Baker, but more aversive or ambivalent images as well. Finally, Henderson cautions black male theorists who would appropriate black women writers against the dangers of essentializing or totalizing, and thereby reinforcing conventional or stereotypical constructs of black femininity.

Keywords:   Mae G. Henderson, Houston Baker, scopophilia [scopic drive], the gaze, metalevel negotiations, “imagistic fields”, essentializing, totalizing, “felicitous images”

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