Narrative, erotic power and black womanhood in the works of Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Dionne Brand

Date of Completion

January 2005


Literature, Modern|Black Studies|Literature, Canadian (English)|Women's Studies|Literature, American




Chapter One considers how black women's literary works critique traditional literary paradigms through retooling and remaking them. For Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Dionne Brand, to be an erotic subject is to be in control over the use of one's body, mind, and spirit. With this control comes an articulation of these experiences beyond the limits and expectations of society. Within the imaginary scope of these three authors, the erotic is made manifest through rewriting narrative and poetic form. Chapter Two discusses how a paradox of belonging and un-belonging to a tradition of witnessing through autobiographical narrative emerges in Zami. Lorde's reinvention of the narrative reflects her understanding of language as a source of erotic power where one converts one's status from invisible to visible. Chapter Three discusses how Toni Morrison's novel Jazz offers a framework to examine human sensuality within the setting of a black community in flux. Morrison illustrates the erotic as a refuge from the mundane reality faced by black people living in Northern cities during the early part of the twentieth century. Jazz reworks traditional narrative structure in order to build her vision of black existence and the erotic. Chapter Four explores the novel At the Change and Full of the Moon. Brand dismantles the notion of a fixed definition of form and subverts literary structures in order to imagine pleasure through unfamiliar arrangements of language. Brand constructs a myriad of personalities to illustrate the multiplicity of voices and perspectives regarding black female experience. Chapter Five discusses how the erotic is a disruption of expectations of sameness and totality. For Brand, Lorde, and Morrison, writing the erotic is to use language to show the combining of spiritual love with sensual love. Within the imaginary scope of these three authors, the erotic is made manifest through the discontinuity of narrative and poetic form. ^