You are here

Spirituality as Ideology in Black Women's Film and Literature

Judylyn S. Ryan

BUY Cloth · 208 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813923697 · $55.00 · Oct 2005

Given the ways in which spirituality functions in the work of such Black women writers and filmmakers as Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, Maya Angelou, Julie Dash, and Euzhan Palcy, Judylyn Ryan proposes in this challenging new study that what these women embrace in their narrative construction and characterization is the role and responsibility of the priestess, bearing and distributing "life-force" to sustain the community of people who read and view their work. Central to these women’s vision of transformation is what Ryan calls a paradigm of growth and an ethos of interconnectedness, which provide interpretive models for examining and teaching a broad range of artistic, cultural, and social texts.

The focus on theology provides a new way of viewing the connections among New World African diaspora religious traditions, challenging the widespread and reductive assumption that Afro-Christianity shares no philosophical commonalities with Santería, Candomblé, Voodun, and other traditions that are not christological.

In addition to exploring spirituality as epistemology, the book also provides an intertextual reading of Black women’s literary and film texts that examines the ways in which these works expose, mediate, and interpret the cultural, social, and historical conditions surrounding their production. While most discussions of lack women’s engagement with, and contribution to, the discursive space of the culture assume an oppositional or reactive stance, Ryan argues that the disposition reflected in the texts she examines tends to be relational and proactive, conferring an autonomy that the gravitational pull between opposites lacks. This intertextual reading constitutes a multimedia auteur criticism of a collective artistic vision.


Appealing to and carrying forward a tradition of ancient spiritual power, this book offers a proactive enterprise, illuminating the agency of black women historically....The scholarship is extensive, original, and embraces a very catholic and eclectic approach to the literature of black women.

Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Colby College, author of If It Wasn’t for the Women: Black Women’s Experience and Womanist Culture in Church and Community

About the Author: 

Judylyn S. Ryan is Assistant Professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan University. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals and edited volumes.

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books