Theses Doctoral

“Our World-Work”: Gender and Labor in African Diasporic Literatures

Reid, Tiana

In the 1928 romance novel, Dark Princess, W. E. B. Du Bois used the form of a love letter to ask "the first question of our world-work: What are you and I trying to do in this world?" Structured around this vexed notion of "world-work," "'Our World-Work': Gender and Labor in African Diasporic Literatures" takes seriously this communal question of what “you and I”—or we—are "trying to do."

I extend Du Bois’s idea to locate the boundaries of the "we" in the face of variations in labor and gender. Thinking world and work together, I consider the grounds of collective narration and social organization on a broad scale, one structured by gender even as anti-sexism is evoked, such as in the case of Du Bois, who is often called a feminist by contemporary scholars. "'Our World-Work'" covers a range of twentieth-century writing, focusing on how figures and figurations of the "black woman," often at the site of the domestic, came to embody some of the urgent issues raised by the globalization of capital.

Reading multi-genre works by Du Bois, Alice Childress, Ousmane Sembène, Paule Marshall, and others, "'Our World-Work'" explores how black writers and intellectuals were thinking, writing, and critiquing the world—and worlds—through their encounters with labor and gender during the middle of the last century. Attention to gender in this dissertation illuminates how modes of affiliation also contain exclusions. "'Our World-Work'" contributes to scholarship on accounts of worlding, intervening in critical debates around race, gender, and labor in the fields of black, feminist, postcolonial, and comparative literary studies.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Edwards, Brent Hayes
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 20, 2021