Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Shirley Toland-Dix, Ph.D

Co-Major Professor

Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D

Committee Member

Elizabeth Hirsh, Ph.D

Committee Member

Kim Vaz, Ph.D


african feminism, subjectivity, patriarchy, resistance, identity


The privileging of man in African societies has involved an erasure of identities and subjectivities of many women, holding them to an assumption of female inferiority. To counter the injustice, African women writers have engaged in rhetorical and performative strategies designed to reconstitute the cultural erasure as they try to claim status as individuals. But in the process, various cultural expectations such as their maternal roles act as constant bottlenecks to return them back to their prescribed roles as subordinate beings. This dissertation, “Imagined Realities, Defying Subjects: Voice, Sexuality and Subversion in African Women’s Writing” explores the methodologies of cultural resistance and the complex ways in which African women have articulated their subjectivity, challenged societal roles, negotiated tradition and formulated a literary and feminist aesthetic. As inventors invested in creating narratives that speak to the concerns of an African female aesthetic, these authors work in, through and toward what Gloria Anzaldua calls a “mestiza consciousness,” whose work is to “break down the subjectobject duality that keeps her [woman] a prisoner and to show in the flesh and through the images in her work how duality is transcended” (102).

Embracing the framework of African Feminism or what Obioma Nnaemeka calls “Nego Feminism,” each chapter articulates the sites of enunciation in which the characters engage with their fragmented conditions. Though with differing methodologies, for each writer, the act of seeking a space through which a self with an “outline” is negotiated and articulated allows the women to become aware of the need to speak their own truths and realities. I examine how authors like Flora Nwapa, Mariama Ba, Yvonne Vera and Calixthe Beyala construct textual strategies that go beyond the marginalized figures and articulate themselves so that they escape society’s sanctioned external definitions. My dissertation proffers a fresh insight that goes beyond the descriptions of how women are represented, superseding this kind of criticism with more complex analysis of gender and women’s oppression.