How would you relate, Dubois, Prufrock, and double consciousness?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I most often think of this concept in conjunction with African-American female authors; Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker...women who must deal with the difficulty of being both a woman and all that is wrapped up in that troublesome identity, and an African-American, trying to define themselves within their own race, and other races, while still being a woman. 

I've had a one of Lucille Clifton's poems on my bulletin board for years.  All of Clifton's images here are concrete.  All of her poems are infused with both her "femaleness" and "blackness."  But unlike Eliot, Clifton's poems, esp this one, have a sense of optimism and a survival thread throughout.  I find this a more appealing way to think of double consciousness.  Anyway, here's her poem, "Eve Thinking":

it is wild country here

brothers and sisters coupling

claw and wing

groping one another.


I wait

while the clay two-foot rumbles in his chest

searching for language to


call me

but he is slow

tonight he sleeps

i will whisper into his mouth

our names






sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Right.  And perhaps women in general, regardless of their positionality in culture--although that positionality (color, class, sexual identity, and the rest) would certainly complicate that experience.  Try this quotation: "The social presence of women [linked closely with appearance and behavior] has developed as a result of their ingenuity in living under such tutelage within such a limited space. But this has been at the cost of a woman's self being split into two. A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost always continually accompanied by her own image of herself." John Berger says this in Ways of Seeing(1972).  Virginia Woolf makes a few allusions to a double consciousness, too, in A Room of One's Own.  But that will be another post!

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just a small p.s.  I adore "Ways of Seeing."  I have yet to teach any sort of class (lit or writing or rhetoric) where I can't work something from it in somehow.  Highly recommend it to anyone out there who might not be familiar with the text. 

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The Souls of Black Folk

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