Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Lyrical StrainsLiberalism and Women's Poetry in Nineteenth-Century America$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Elissa Zellinger

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469659817

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469659817.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 07 July 2022

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Two-Body Problem

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Two-Body Problem

(p.98) Chapter Three Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Two-Body Problem
Lyrical Strains

Elissa Zellinger

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines how Frances Ellen Watkins Harper deployed motherhood—in which the mother's body becomes "two" via her child—to advocate for African American women's equality. It concentrates on two complications in Watkins Harper's poetry which speak to how violent forces dismantle or differently assemble the individual: first, slaves were private possessions, not people; and, second, encumbered or extended by their children's bodies, mothers were forbidden the self-circumscription that constituted liberal selfhood. By reflecting how mothers' bodies and the children attached to those bodies were broken down into publicly saleable parts, Watkins Harper's poetry contravenes liberalism's notions of singular self-possession. Rather than focusing on the institution of slavery and its denial of such self-possession to African American women, this chapter dwells with Watkins Harper on how the connection between disembodiment and motherhood results in multi-bodied mothers who exceed the boundaries of a singular subject. By expanding the terms of liberalism's singular self-possession, Watkins Harper symbolically gathers up the maternal body and all the other bodies it supports into a sovereign whole through the "body" of the poem.

Keywords:   Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Motherhood, Slavery, Self-possession, Self-circumscription, African American women, Maternal, Body, Poetry

North Carolina Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .