|Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Religion, United States, Women on 2016-05-21 23:06Z by Steven|
University Press of Kentucky
6 x 9 photos
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8131-2143-7
Janet Gabler-Hover, Professor of English
Georgia State University
Winner of the SAMLA 2001 Book Award
Hagar, the Old Testament Egyptian heroine who bore Abraham’s son at the behest of Sarah, was traditionally regarded as an African. Yet the literature and paintings of the nineteenth century depicted Hagar as white. During this period, she became a popular subject for writers and artists, with at least thirteen novels published between 1850 and 1913 taking Hagar as their theme. Dreaming Black/Writing White examines how, for white feminists, Hagar became a liberating symbol to empower their own rebellion against patriarchal restrictions. Hagar’s understood blackness allowed her to represent a combination of sexual passion and artistic creativity that empowered women in the process of taking on male roles of economic power in American society. Because of Hagar’s ethnic complexity, she stands as an ironically positive figure at the center of several southern proslavery women’s novels such as The Deserted Wife, Hagar the Martyr, and The Modern Hagar. Through the persona of Hagar, women novelists felt free to create heroines whose suggestive blackness allowed readers to imagine themselves in rebellion against a restrictive patriarchy, but whose recoverable whiteness provided a safety hatch through which blackness could be disavowed. By exploring these complex and often contradictory depictions, Janet Gabler-Hover contends that the figure of Hagar is central to the canonized romance of nineteenth-century New England literature. The book also affirms Toni Morrison’s claim that blackness—indeed black womanness—lies at the heart of the white literary imagination in America.