'Vulnerability as armor': Embodied spiritual commitments of Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, and Toni Cade Bambara
Bartlow, Susannah Rose
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This project investigates the dynamics of personal healing in the writing and lives of Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and Toni Cade Bambara, mapping a dynamic that responds to socially oppressive traumas with individual creativity and community accountability. To do so, I link conversations in womanism, theories of affect and subjectivity, identity politics, body politics, trauma theory, and social justice. The metaphor of conscious healing provides a model for political and intellectual engagement that is often divided into particular disciplines and deserves to be considered fully, on its own terms. This study connects the threads of the prescribed subjectivity to demonstrate its political potential. In Alice Walker's Meridian , Meridian Hill's spiritual and physical traumas lead her to a beloved community that predicts Walker's later emphasis on spiritual resolutions to political struggles. In Chapter Two, I map Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters as a web of solutions for the complex problems that divided communities of color following the challenges of late 20 th century civil rights activisms. Bambara focuses her solutions through a community's responses to the public healing of a single activist who must choose to be well. Chapter Three extends the trope of conscious choice in Audre Lorde's The Black Unicorn and Sister Outsider , in which Lorde constructs an epistemology informed by a deliberate and creative relationship with personal and social identities. Lorde's collegial relationship with Adrienne Rich illustrates feminist applications of this engaged subjectivity. In Chapter Four, I address Alice Walker's post-2000 Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart in contrast with her legendary The Color Purple , arguing that Walker has extended, rather than rejected, her earlier work, raising critical questions about accountability in literary and feminist icons. My final chapter returns to Audre Lorde's late work A Burst of Light and The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance , in which Lorde extends some of her most problematic metaphors in ways that illustrate their contingency and possibility.