Body to matrix: A study of vernacular sacred writings by women of four United States subcultures.
AuthorMcCafferty, Kate Anne.
Committee ChairEvers, Larry
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractBeginning with a redefinition of key critical terms and a discussion of the Western academy's stake in devaluing the discourse of the sacred, this dissertation moves into a study of the sacred writings of six American women. First, we look at Lucille Clifton's poetry in Good Woman and Next. We observe this poet's celebration of her participation in generative creation and racial continuity, through the body of motherhood. In addition, Clifton claims kinship with "Other" cultural groups, based on shared values, understandings, and vocation. The second chapter explores the "character" of the American tree in Toni Morrison's Beloved. The tree is a site where we can track the excruciating creation of African American double consciousness. Both African and Western paradigms of order are tested against the "behavior" of the American tree and its displaced inscription on the body of a slave woman. A sapling New World model of the socio-sacred evolves from this experience, and takes root. In the third chapter, we look at the transmutation of Aztecan female deities and the values they embodied, into "official" and non-official versions of the Virgin of Guadelupe. Ascribed and achieved connections with this image of the matrix are explored. In comparing literary representations by Sandra Cisneros and Gloria Anzaldua, we explore how sexual orientation factors into a woman's link with her generative matrix. The fourth chapter concerns the development of the figure Pauline/Leopolda in Erdrich's Tracks and Love Medicine. We piece together her participation in a larger Chippewa drama (that of "creative cosmic conflict"), and come to question whether official Western institutions have "conquered" the Chippewa, or are themselves being amalgamated into a dynamic relationship much more ancient than white incursion. The final chapter is an examination of the slow conversion of an avant-garde, privileged "white" woman Mabel Dodge Luhan, by the spirit of land-matrix she lives on. Written across a period of 20+ years of life in Taos, New Mexico, Dodge Luhan's work demonstrates that the Western subaltern must struggle against many layers of her own ideological programming before meeting with the sacred, body to matrix, without philosophical or sacerdotal intermediaries. This suggests something Man-centered Subjectivity cannot tolerate: the possibility of an autonomous, sacred, forcefield with the ability to call humankind--in spite of material culture or ideological self-interest--to a creative, insurrectionist, alignment in the service of Life.