Consider The Lilies: Consulting the Beauty and Comprehending the Grotesque in Our Mothers' Gardens - A Theological Aesthetics for Black Experience Open Access

Moore, Jeania Ree Violet (2015)

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Beauty, ugliness, and the aesthetic are deeply formative realities in African American experience, yet have been little analyzed as such theologically. In this thesis, I undertake this work, approaching aesthetics as a double-edged sword that has been used to substantiate and subvert the historical construction of blackness as a liability of being. Taking my cue from Alice Walker's womanist writings, I argue that theological aesthetics is a vital interlocutor for black theology, and find in the grotesque the conceptual scaffolding to construct a theological aesthetics that accounts for both the beauty and ugliness in black experience. In chapter one, I consider the epistemological weight of aesthetic encounters and explore beauty and ugliness as twinned arms of revelation. In chapter two, I focus on ugliness. Examining literal and figurative instantiations of ugliness in black experience, I show how the beauty of the Cross and the genre of the grotesque enable this theological aesthetics to yield a theodicy of the nothingness of evil. In chapter three, I investigate the relation between justice and beauty. Using personal narratives of beauty from the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, I demonstrate how this theological aesthetics entails an eschatological ethics of hope. My approach employing literary, historical, and phenomenological analysis for constructive theological ends probes the boundary between aesthetic experience and theology. The distinctive encounter with the aesthetic in African American experience highlights the confrontation of ugliness and the irruption of beauty as phenomena for theological work. This thesis is as much a constructive theological aesthetics as it is a meditation upon aesthetics in and through theology.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: God Don't Like Ugly 13

Chapter 2: Good Hair 25

Chapter 3: Making A Way Out of No Way 62

Conclusion 89

Bibliography 94

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