In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose

In Search of Our Mothers' Corpses: Motherhood and the Lacanian Order in Meridian College

In the essay “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” Alice Walker presents a moving portrait of matrilineal art and creativity extending throughout black history. Following this line, Walker illustrates generations upon generations of lost artists, mothers and grandmothers “driven to a numb and bleeding madness by the springs of creativity in them for which there was no release” (232). Among her imagined foremothers, Walker conjures the nameless ghosts of unrecognized genius and talent: stifled painters, thinkers, and sculptors emerge as black incarnations in the tradition of Virginia Woolf’s Judith Shakespeare. Walker traces this lineage, suggesting that even when systemically repressed and silenced, this creative spirit has survived, if only to be passed down in the hope of finding expression in the next generation of black women.

In her exploration of Walker’s fascination with matrilineal inheritance, Dianne Sadoff notes a certain disparity between Walker’s veneration of her foremothers in certain texts and her anxieties about motherhood in others. Proposing a revision of Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s theory of the “anxiety of influence” unique to female authors—itself a revision of Harold Bloom’s model of literary...

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