Title page for ETD etd-01282004-122859

Type of Document Dissertation
Author McDaniels, Preselfannie Whitfield
URN etd-01282004-122859
Title Mothering Modes: Analyzing Mother Roles in Novels by Twentieth-Century United States Women Writers
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Michelle Masse' Committee Chair
John W. Lowe Committee Member
Nghana T. Lewis Committee Member
Richard C. Moreland Committee Member
Joachim Singelmann Dean's Representative
  • American literature
  • women writers
  • daughters
  • women's literature
  • women's studies
  • mothers
  • black literature
Date of Defense 2003-12-05
Availability unrestricted
For this dissertation, the following novels have been chosen as examples of the many issues that are involved in mothering in United States society: Chapter 1: Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Chapter 2: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Dorothy West’s The Wedding, Chapter 3: Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife and Christina García’s Dreaming in Cuban, and Chapter 4: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones. For this study, the term “mothering” is specifically related to the rearing of children by the female parent. Rearing is defined as the bringing up of a child to maturity and at least to the legal age of eighteen. In “Mothers at Work: Representations of Maternal Practice in Literature,” Elizabeth Bourque Johnson examines the following definition of mothering: “Mothering is a job, a kind of work. The word mother may also indicate a relationship or a title or a way of caring, but primarily a mother is a worker, a person who takes responsibility for the care and development of a child” (22). In this dissertation, I argue that oppressive circumstances in the examples in these novels create similar coping strategies for the mother characters, especially when mothering daughters. In addition and contrary to what some might believe, those coping strategies are not confined exclusively to particular cultural groups. The chapters of this study show how different mothers who rear children under different negative circumstances may benefit from similar coping strategies, and they examine these coping strategies from the least to the greatest examples of their success.
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