Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook (Casebooks in Contemporary Fiction)

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Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings A CASEBOOK


General Editor, William L. Andrews With the continued expansion of the literary canon, m u l t i c u l t u r a l works of modern literary fiction have assumed an increasing importance for students and scholars of American literature. Casebooks in Contemporary Fiction assembles key documents and criticism concerning these works that have so recently become central components of the American literature curriculum. The majority of the casebooks treat fictional works; however, because the line between autobiography and fiction is often blurred in contemporary literature, a small number of casebooks will specialize in autobiographical fiction or even straight autobiography. Each casebook will reprint documents relating to the work's historical context and reception, representative critical essays, an interview with the author, and a selected bibliography. The series will provide, for the first time, an accessible forum in which readers can come to a fuller understanding of these contemporary masterpieces and the unique aspects of the American ethnic, racial, or cultural experiences that they so ably portray. Toni Morrison's Relayed: A Casebook edited by William L. Andrews and Nellie Y. McKay Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior: A Casebook edited by Sau-ling C. Wong Maya Angelou's I Know Why the. Cac\ed Bird Simjs: A Casebook edited by Joanne M. Braxton Forthcoming: Louise I;rdrich's Low Medicine: A Casebook edited by H e r t h a 1). Sweet Wong


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings



Edited by Joanne M. Braxton

New York


Oxford University Press


Oxford University Press Oxford New-York Athens Auckland Bangkok Bogota Buenos Aires Calcutta ("ape Town Chennai Dares Salaam Delhi Horcnee, I long Kong Istanbul Karachi Kuala L u m p u r Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumhal Nairobi Paris Sao Paulo Singapore Taipei Tokyo Toronto Warsaw and associated companies in Berlin Ibadan

Copyright © 1999 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Published by Oxford University Press, Inc. 198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016 ( Kiord is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Oxford University Press. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Maya Angelou's i know why the caged bird sings : a casebook / edited by Joanne XL Braxton. p. cm.—(Casebooks in contemporary fiction) includes bibliographical references and index. ( xmtcnts: Dolly McPherson's Initiation and discovery -Learning to live / by Opal Moore Kcemhodying the self/ by Mary Vermillion—Racial protest, identity, words and form in Caged bird / by Pierre Walker- Maya Angelou's Caged bird / by Susan Cilberl- Death as metaphor of self / by Liliane K. Arensberg—Singing the Black mother / by Mary Jane Lupton— Maya Angelou, an interview with Claudia Tate. I.SRX 0-19-511606-2; ISRN 0-19-111607 o (pbk.) I. Angelou, Maya. 1 know w h y the caged bird sings. 2. Afro- American women authors Biography—History and criticism. ',. Women entertainers- - Biography History and criticism. 4. Autobiography. T. Braxton, Joanne M. II. Angelou, Maya, I know why the caged bird sings. 111. Series. F s 35:11. M 64/7 94 1998 8lH'.5409- deal 98-11295

1 3 5 / 9 X 6 4 2 Printed in die United States of America on acid-Free Paper


Maya Angelou and Joanne M. Braxton. "Interview with Maya Angelou," previously unpublished. Printed with permission of Maya Angelou and Joanne M. Braxton. Liliane K. Arensberg. "Death as Metaphor of Self in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," originally published in College Language Association Journal 20, no. 2 (Dec. 1976): 273—91. Courtesy of CLA Journal. Susan Gilbert. "Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Paths to Escape," originally published in Mount Olive Review I, no. I (Spring 1987): 39—50. Courtesy of Mount Olive College Press. Mary Jane Lupton. "Singing the Black Mother: Maya Angelou and Autobiographical Continuity," originally published in Black American Literature Forum 24, no. 2 (Summer 1990): 257—76. Courtesy of Mary Jane Lupton. Dolly A. McPherson. "Initiation and Self-Discovery," originally published as Chapter 2 of Order Out of Chaos: The Autobiographical Works af Maya Angelou (London: Virago Press, 1991), 21—55. Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company (LJK). Opal Moore. "Learning to Live: When the Bird Breaks from the Cage," originally published in Censored Boots: Critical Viewpoints, ed. Nicholas J. Karolides, Lee Burress, and John M. Kean (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1993), 306—16. Courtesy of Opal Moore. Claudia Tate. "Maya Angelou," originally published as Chapter I of Black Women Writers at Work (New York: Continuum, 1983), r-n. Courtesy of Claudia Tate.



Mary Vermillion. "Recmbodying the Self: Representations of Rape in incidents in the Lije oj A Slave Girl and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," originally published in Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 15, no. 3 (Summer 1992): 243—60. © Copyright 1992 by the Biographical Research Center. Courtesy of Biographical Research Center and Mary Vermillion. Pierre A. Walker. "Racial Protest, Identity, Words, and l ; orm in .Maya Angelou's 1 Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," originally published in College literature 22, no. 3 (Oct. 1995): 91—108. Courtesy of College literature.



ANY P E O P L E P L A Y E D a role i n t h e realization o f Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A Casebook. We are all indebted to Maya Angelou for her courageous life and inspiring work in the public sphere. For this book, she generously made herself available for an interview, entertained me as a guest in her home, and allowed me to attend one of her classes at Wake Forest University. I am similarly indebted to series editor William L. Andrews for his timely advice and his continuing support for my work. During my semester as Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh in Spring 1996, that department made available Alicia Fuchs, who proved an able graduate assistant. I am indebted to the American Studies Program and the English Department of the College of William and Mary for the skills of Toby Chieffo, who transcribed the above mentioned interview, and to Casey Cornelius, Sandy Burr, and I.a Shonda K. Barnett, who helped with manuscript preparation. Dana Boswell, though still a graduate student in our American Studies Program, offered valuable suggestions and advice about the manuscript, some of which I accepted. Scott and Vivian Donaldson offered their warm companionship, lively conversation, and a secluded location where [ could write under pressure. Finally, I wish to thank my daughter, Mycah Brazelton-Braxton, eight years old, who has endured her mother's distractions and on some occa-



sions, my absence. Nevertheless, my child has developed her own fascination with Maya Angelou, having written a short essay, which was posted in the hallway of her school. Mycah also presented an autographed copy of Angelou's "On the Pulse of the Morning" to the D. J. Montague Elementary School on my behalf when the scheduled assembly conflicted with my teaching responsibilities on campus. Thank you, too, Mycah, for your endless gifts, the soda can necklaces, paintings, drawings, and paper airplanes that continue both to amaze and inspire me and to lift my spirit.


Symbolic Geography and Psychic Landscapes: A Conversation with Maya Angelou 3 J O A N N E M.


Initiation and Self-Discovery



Learning to Live: When the Bird Breaks from the Cage OPAL



Reembodying the Self: Representations of Rape in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and I Know Why the C'aged Bird Sings 59 M A R Y V E R M I I , I. ION

Racial Protest, Identity, Words, and Form 77 PIERRE




Paths to Escape S t.; S A N


G I I. I) 1! R T

Death as Metaphor of Self I, I I, I A N 1