Emily Duru, a graduating senior majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing, is a McNair Scholar for the 2020-2021 academic year. Duru’s undergraduate research work, through the McNair Scholars Program, focuses on positive representations of Black women in contemporary literature. In particular, Duru uses Black Feminist theory and methodologies in her reading of Paule Marshall’s Daughters to interrogate how the antebellum construction of race and gender effect present-day ideas and assumptions about Black womanhood. When describing her work and the stakes of her research, Duru writes:
As a Black woman, I have always sought out representation in media or more specifically literature. Originally, I wanted to center my research around a book that poorly showcased Black women, and twisted the narrative around our bodies, sexuality, and maternity. However, I realized highlighting the bad only furthers the problem and doesn’t offer a solution to what a positive image could look like. While people have looked into the works of Paule Marshall in the past, I wanted to look at it from the point of view of Black feminist scholars and use critical theory to piece together how Marshall constructs a more encompassing illustration of Black womanhood. While this research project is just the beginning, in graduate school, I hope to continue to explore how critical Black feminist theory can change our reading of contemporary literature.