Gwendolyn Brooks: Poems

Making Whiteness Strange: Intersections of Race and Gender in the Poems of Gwendolyn Brooks and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye College

In his seminal paper, Richard Dyer states that, ‘white people create the dominant images of the world and don’t quite see that they thus construct the world in their own image; white people set standards of humanity by which they are bound to succeed and others bound to fail’ (10). For African American women, the pervasive image of whiteness that is conflated with conceptions of beauty, domestic space and gender norms result in an ongoing perpetuation of self-hatred and psychological trauma. In Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Gwendolyn Brooks’ “A Bronzeville Mother loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon” and “The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till”, whiteness is presented as a mythic construction that has material effects in society despite failing to ever live up to its claim of universal normality. Brooks’ adoption and subversion of the ballad form offers an insight into the specifically gendered consequences of whiteness, where white women participate in a hegemonic structure that both privileges and oppresses them. Morrison’s novel, through its intertextual references to the classical myth of the Rape of Persephone, as Tessa Roynan discusses at length, and the First Reading Primer,...

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