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Understanding Alice Walker

Thadious M. Davis

Published: Aug 20 2021


Published: Aug 20 2021


Published: Aug 20 2021

OA Ebook
Published: Aug 20 2021


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

Understanding Alice Walker serves both as an introduction to the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner's large body of work and as a critical analysis of her multifaceted canon. Thadious M. Davis begins with Walker's biography and her formative experiences in the South and then presents ways of accessing and reading Walker's complex, interconnected, and sociopolitically invested career in writing fiction, poetry, critical essays, and meditations.

Although best known for her novel The Color Purple and her landmark essays In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose, Walker began her career with Once: Poems, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, and In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women. She has remained committed not merely to writing in multiple genres but also to conveying narratives of the hope and transformation possible within the human condition and as visualized through the lens of race and gender.

Davis traces Walker's literary voice as it emerges from the civil rights and feminist movements to encourage an individual and collective search for justice and joy and then evolves into forceful advocacy for world peace, spiritual liberation, and environmental conservancy. Her writing, a rich amalgamation of the cutting-edge and popular, the new-age and difficult, continues to be paradigm shifting and among the most important produced in the last half of the twentieth century and among the most consistently prophetic in the first part of the twenty-first century.

Thadious M. Davis, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought, Emerita, and professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author or editor of 13 books, including Southscapes: Geographies of Race, Region, and Literature.

"In Thadious Davis, Alice Walker has found an ideal reader, one who places the author and her work in personal, historical, and political contexts, one whose critical analysis reveals depth and meaning beyond the obvious, and one whose brilliance complements that of the writer."—Farah Jasmine Griffin, Columbia University

"This brilliant book provides a dazzlingly crystalline and panoramic portrait of Alice Walker's expansive body of work. It incorporates insights on Walker's biography, examining stages in her epic journey as a writer whose life and work have profoundly impacted the world and been devoted to helping its healing."—Riché Richardson, Cornell University

"Understanding Alice Walker is a succinct and searching study of Alice Walker's expansive corpus and evolving imagination. Thadious Davis provides her readers a comprehensive and illuminating overview of Walker's writings across multiple themes and genres, but also of the contexts—local and global—that have given it form."—Deborah McDowell, University of Virginia

"Davis reveals an immense scholarly patience with Alice Walker and her works, reading and discussing and analyzing them in a deep and well-organized reconstruction of the author's background against American history and events around the globe."—Geneva Cobb Moore, author of Bodily Evidence: Racism, Slavery, and Maternal Power in the Novels of Toni Morrison

"Davis's keen attention to Walker's less critically engaged works is Understanding Alice Walker's greatest contribution and intervention. [. . .] Davis elucidates Walker's significant contributions to Southern literature, feminist theory, and Black Studies. [An] excellent companion text for courses engaging Walker's works as it is written to be accessible for undergraduate students. [. . .] Understanding Alice Walker reveals that Alice Walker's dynamic literary voice continues to be poignant and prophetic in both local and global contexts."—Studies in the Novel

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