S-Space College of Humanities (인문대학) English Language and Literature (영어영문학과) 영학논집(English Studies) 영학논집(English Studies) No.36 (2016)
Between the “Magical” Legacy and a Model Household: Establishing Alternative Modes of Speaking in Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo
- Kim, Nayoung
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 인문대학 영어영문학과
- 영학논집, Vol.36, pp. 1-24
- Ntozake Shange; Sassafrass; Cypress & Indigo; black women; racism; sexism; alternative speaking; subjectivity
- Within the grammar distorted by racism and sexism, black women often face a fabricated narrative about them. Black women critics, namely Spillers and hooks, have criticized that the existing language and the various forms of articulation utilizing such language have been objectifying black women either as an un-being or as an ahistorical symbol. Such phenomenon is witnessed not only within blatant racism but in black community as well. For instance, the Black Arts Movement, which raised a slogan of resistance against racism, heralded a near mythic, monolithic body of blacks. This grand political agenda to promote black solidarity marginalized black women by condoning and appropriating male superiority. Upon such a hostile ground for a black woman to stand autonomous, establishing an alternative form of language or ways of self articulation becomes ever more crucial for black women writers. In Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, Ntozake Shange explores the artistically creative/political power that can be summoned from the black’s historical heritage passed down in the region of South Carolina. This paper focuses on the process of rejuvenating such heritage and channeling it as a form of radical, creative power through the three sisters. Along the path, this paper also traces the friction between black women’s artistic/political subjectivity and conventional heteronormative domesticity. Indigo, the youngest, rejects the language contaminated by the superficial symbols and instead adopts the “magic” of black female tradition to be her mode of speaking. Via Indigo, the “homeplace” is elevated from a place of slave labor or patriarchal oppression to an arena of vivacious self expression. It is this vitality that Sassafrass and Cypress realize to be the genuine source of their artistic representations, although the danger to be silenced again always lurks in the process. Such dilemma that Shange delicately elaborates is the very reality of a black woman subject who stands before a crossroad between the vibrating legacy and conventional stability.