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Traces Of A Stream

Traces Of A Stream: Literacy and Social Change Among African American Women

Jacqueline Jones Royster
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    Traces Of A Stream
    Book Description:

    Traces of a Streamoffers a unique scholarly perspective that merges interests in rhetorical and literacy studies, United States social and political theory, and African American women writers. Focusing on elite nineteenth-century African American women who formed a new class of women well positioned to use language with consequence, Royster uses interdisciplinary perspectives (literature, history, feminist studies, African American studies, psychology, art, sociology, economics) to present a well-textured rhetorical analysis of the literate practices of these women. With a shift in educational opportunity after the Civil War, African American women gained access to higher education and received formal training in rhetoric and writing. By the end of the nineteenth-century, significant numbers of African American women operated actively in many public arenas.

    In her study, Royster acknowledges the persistence of disempowering forces in the lives of African American women and their equal perseverance against these forces. Amid these conditions, Royster views the acquisition of literacy as a dynamic moment for African American women, not only in terms of their use of written language to satisfy their general needs for agency and authority, but also to fulfill socio-political purposes as well.

    Traces of a Streamis a showcase for nineteenth-century African American women, and particularly elite women, as a group of writers who are currently underrepresented in rhetorical scholarship. Royster has formulated both an analytical theory and an ideological perspective that are useful in gaining a more generative understanding of literate practices as a whole and the practices of African American women in particular. Royster tells a tale of rhetorical prowess, calling for alternative ways of seeing, reading, and rendering scholarship as she seeks to establish a more suitable place for the contributions and achievements of African American women writers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7211-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  2. Introduction: A Call for Other Ways of Reading
    (pp. 3-14)

    As the subtitle indicates,this book is about literacy, social change, and African American women. I chose the title because of reactions I have consistently received over the years when I have presented papers on early generations of African American women writers and their achievements. Without exception, after a presentation, at least one person—sometimes from surprise, or with an awareness of deprivation, or with indignation or embarrassment, or sometimes with a sense of what I have come to call deep disbelief¹—at least one person will say to me, “I’ve never heard of these women.” I have been compelled...

  3. Part 1. A Rhetorical View

    • Chapter 1 In Search of Rivers: Womanist Writers and the Essay
      (pp. 17-41)

      In 1983, I discovered that African American women write essays, and it was then I began to notice features of this type of writing that served ultimately to shape and direct the writing of this book. What prompted these insights was my reading of Alice Walker’s collection of previously published and unpublished essays, entitled, after the best-known essay in the group,In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. First among the distinctions of this volume is that it was published during a time when works by African American women were being celebrated as a literary “renaissance.” By the 1980s...

    • Chapter 2 Toward an Analytical Model for Literacy and Sociopolitical Action
      (pp. 42-74)

      My imperativein theorizing literacy in the lives of African American women is to account for how, within this group, literacy has been practiced and made usable, with emphasis on the essay as a particularly instructive literate form. I acknowledge that there are many variables in African American women’s lives and work, which make their stories of literacy far from monothematic. Vibrant among these practices, however, is the use of literacy as an instrument for producing spiraling effects in both sociopolitical thought and sociopolitical action. Literacy has enabled African American women to create whirlpools in the pond of public discourse,...

  4. Part 2. A Historical View

    • Chapter 3 The Genesis of Authority: When African Women Became American
      (pp. 77-107)

      I begin this chapterwith a statement of the obvious. African American women write. We also speak, often in public. We are, in fact, talented users of language who have demonstrated expertise across multiple measures of performance and achievement. However, for African American women the obvious has not always been treated as such. My intent in this chapter is to suggest that it has only been through the shifting paradigms of the past three decades that researchers and scholars in literacy studies and in other disciplines have been able to see more clearly that the uses of literate resources by...

    • Chapter 4 Going Against the Grain: The Acquisition and Use of Literacy
      (pp. 108-175)

      Maria W. Stewartwas the first African American woman known to have written essays.¹ The passage above, written in 1831, suggests that African American women have understood with great clarity two things: the power of language and learning and the inherent hostility of the context within which people of African descent must live in the United States. It is useful to our discussion to view this understanding of condition and instruments of power in light of Harvey J. Graff’s assertion concerning literacy acquisition: “the environment in which students acquire their literacy has a major impact on the cognitive consequences of...

    • Chapter 5 From This Fertile Ground: Formal Training in the Development of Rhetorical Prowess
      (pp. 176-238)

      In 1956Jeanne L. Noble became the first researcher to publish a scholarly work on African American women and higher education for a mainstream market.¹ Her book,The Negro Woman’s College Education,published by the Teachers College of Columbia University, received the 1955 Pi Lambda Theta Award from the National Association for Women in Education. It was a landmark publication that examined the goals and aspirations of contemporary African American college-educated women and analyzed the types of curricula available to them, the opportunities that were encouraged and not encouraged for them as college-educated women, their attitudes about their training, as...

    • Photographic Essay: African American Women Rhetors, When and Where They Enter
      (pp. 239-248)

      African American Women speak and write in public arenas, so the saying of when and where they enter, they certainly did. They entered every arena they could, with Anna Julia Cooper being one of the most eloquent among them in articulating their rights and abilities to do so. Cooper was born a slave in 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Despite such humble beginnings, however, over the course of her life and work her accomplishments were manifold. She became one of the first African American women to receive a doctorate degree, the first African American woman to be named president of...

  5. Part 3. An Ideological View

    • Chapter 6 A View from a Bridge: Afrafeminist Ideologies and Rhetorical Studies
      (pp. 251-286)

      In resonance with this epigraph,my goal here is to share knowledge and experience, not about the literate practices of African American women as in the previous chapters but about my own standpoint as a researcher and scholar in the process of completing this book. The first and most consistent challenges have come hand in hand with the very choosing of the work itself, that is, with identifying myself as a researcher who focuses on a multiply marginalized group; whose interests in this group center on topics not typically associated with the group, such as nonfiction and public discourse rather...

  6. Appendix 1. Some Early African American Women Contributors, Editors, Publishers, and Owners of Periodical Publications
    (pp. 289-294)
  7. Appendix 2. Some Early Periodical Publications with Which African American Women Writers Were Associated
    (pp. 295-296)