Special Issue "“My Soul Is A Witness”: Reimagining African American Women’s Spirituality and the Black Female Body in African American Literature"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 February 2019)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Carol Henderson

Department of English and Africana Studies, University of Delaware, 116 Hullihen Hall, Newark, DE 19716, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: English, Black American studies, African American studies, literature, gender, film, pop culture, spirituality, diversity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Katherine Clay Bassard declares nearly twenty years ago in her formative text Spiritual Interrogations, that in order to more fully consider the ways black women have spiritually represented themselves in African American literature, one must consider a variety of religious traditions that shape their religious experiences including Christianity, Islam, African and neo-African traditional, among others. More importantly, this practice of reading black women’s intertextuality (what she terms spiritual interrogation) structures visions of reading that provide a richer understanding of the ways in which the sacred and secular, the spiritual and political, become a lens through which to see African American female subjectivity in all of its nuanced complexity.

This special issue seeks to explore the ways in which writers reclaim the black female body in African American literature using the theoretical, social, cultural, and religious frameworks of spirituality and religion. Of key importance to this collection is black women’s agency—acknowledged and affirmed in prose, poetry, essays, speeches, written plays, or short stories. Whether it is Indigo (Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo) creating a world with her dolls that shepherds her through her rite of passage to womanhood, or Baby Suggs declaring in her “fixing ceremonies” in the Clearing that “in this here place, we flesh,” (Beloved), authors have sought to discuss the tensions of the sacred and secular through concepts such as forgiveness, redemption, passion, alienation, motherhood, sex, marriage, among others.

Prof. Dr. Carol Henderson
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charges (APCs) of 550 CHF (Swiss Francs) per published paper are partially funded by institutions through Knowledge Unlatched for a limited number of papers per year. Please contact the editorial office before submission to check whether KU waivers, or discounts are still available. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • spirituality
  • Black/African theologies
  • religions
  • identity
  • gender
  • black body
  • sacred
  • secular
  • race
  • embodiment
  • cultural affirmation

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle “Precious Lord”: Black Mother-Loss and the Roots of Modern Gospel
Religions 2019, 10(4), 285; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040285 (registering DOI)
Received: 13 March 2019 / Revised: 16 April 2019 / Accepted: 17 April 2019 / Published: 23 April 2019
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Abstract
Thomas Dorsey’s 1932 gospel song Take My Hand, Precious Lord is one of modern gospel music’s most canonical works. Although its composition by Dorsey in the wake of his wife’s sudden death in childbirth is a widely known oral history, the cultural implications [...] Read more.
Thomas Dorsey’s 1932 gospel song Take My Hand, Precious Lord is one of modern gospel music’s most canonical works. Although its composition by Dorsey in the wake of his wife’s sudden death in childbirth is a widely known oral history, the cultural implications of a wider history of health care disparities in the US leading to higher rates of black maternal and infant mortality have not been seriously considered. This article studies the history of black maternal and infant mortality in Chicago during the Great Migration as it bears on the mournful sounds of the gospel blues and its gender-inflected beginnings. The history of early gospel, I argue, was profoundly influenced by black women’s sympathetic identification with the experiences of migration and mother-loss Nettie Dorsey’s death represents. While Thomas Dorsey is distinguished as “the father of gospel music,” Nettie Dorsey might be fruitfully imagined as the spectral “mother” of gospel in its mournful expressions of black women’s spiritual consciousness. As such, she stands in for an alternate history of modern gospel musicality, one helping African American religious and musical history see and hear better what Emily Lordi calls “black feminist resonance” in black musical production in the golden age of gospel. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Set Thine House in Order: Black Feminism and the Sermon as Sonic Art in The Amen Corner
Religions 2019, 10(4), 271; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040271
Received: 12 March 2019 / Revised: 10 April 2019 / Accepted: 11 April 2019 / Published: 16 April 2019
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Abstract
In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois discusses the historical and cultural beginnings of the black preacher as “the most unique personality developed on American soil.” He writes, “[the black preacher] found his functions as the healer of the sick, the [...] Read more.
In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois discusses the historical and cultural beginnings of the black preacher as “the most unique personality developed on American soil.” He writes, “[the black preacher] found his functions as the healer of the sick, the interpreter of the Unknown, the comforter of the sorrowing, the supernatural avenger of wrong…Thus as bard, physician, judge, and priest within the narrow limits allowed by the slave system rose the Negro preacher.” Far from being a monolith, the preacher figure embodies many complexities and variances on how the preached Word can be delivered. This begs the question, in what ways can we reimagine DuBois’s black preacher figure in his words, “the most unique personality developed on American soil,” as a black woman? What remains to be seen in scholarship of the mid-twentieth century is an articulation of the black woman preacher in African American literature. By reimagining and refiguring a response to DuBois’s assertion above, how is the role of the black woman preacher and impact of her sermons portrayed in African American literature? Using the art of the sermon, the intersection of music, and James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner as a central text, this article examines the black woman preacher in character and African American women’s spirituality in twentieth century literature. I argue that the way in which Margaret Alexander, as a black woman preacher in the text, creates sermonic spaces of healing and restoration (exegetically and eschatologically) for herself and others outside of the church becomes a new mode of social and cultural resistance. This article works to re-envision the black woman and reposition her in the center of religious discourse on our way to unearthing the modes of transfiguration black women preachers evoke in and out of the pulpit. Full article
Open AccessArticle Spiritual Eroticism and Real Good Loving in Tina McElroy Ansa’s The Hand I Fan With
Religions 2019, 10(4), 267; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040267
Received: 3 April 2019 / Accepted: 9 April 2019 / Published: 15 April 2019
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Abstract
By situating herself in the historical dialogue about Christianity, women, and sexuality, the author examines what many may consider an oxymoron—spiritual eroticism. The essay provides a definition of spiritual eroticism, one which takes it beyond intense sexual encounters but instead grounds the idea [...] Read more.
By situating herself in the historical dialogue about Christianity, women, and sexuality, the author examines what many may consider an oxymoron—spiritual eroticism. The essay provides a definition of spiritual eroticism, one which takes it beyond intense sexual encounters but instead grounds the idea in the story of Oshun, the African deity of beauty, sensuality, and fertility. Spiritual eroticism is explored in Tina McElroy Ansa’s The Hand I Fan With. Full article
Open AccessArticle “Are You Sure, Sweetheart, That You Want to Be Well?”: The Politics of Mental Health and Long-Suffering in Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters
Religions 2019, 10(4), 263; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10040263
Received: 14 February 2019 / Revised: 6 April 2019 / Accepted: 9 April 2019 / Published: 12 April 2019
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Abstract
In analyzing the woman-centered communal healing ceremony in Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters, this article considers how these types of womb-like spaces allow female protagonists to access ancestral and spiritual histories that assist them in navigating physical illnesses and mental health [...] Read more.
In analyzing the woman-centered communal healing ceremony in Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters, this article considers how these types of womb-like spaces allow female protagonists to access ancestral and spiritual histories that assist them in navigating physical illnesses and mental health crises. It employs Bell Hooks’ Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery alongside Arthur Kleinman’s definition of illness as social and transactional to demonstrate that the recognition of illness, and the actualization of wellness, necessitates collective and communal efforts informed by spiritual and cultural modes of knowledge, including alternative healing practices and ancestral mediation. Full article
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