A Raisin in the Sun as feminist text : racialised gender roles, female agency and representation across mediums

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Title: A Raisin in the Sun as feminist text : racialised gender roles, female agency and representation across mediums
Author: Timko, Maria Alexandra
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Humanistinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Helsingfors universitet, Humanistiska fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2021
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202105312390
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Englannin kielen ja kirjallisuuden maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in English Studies
Magisterprogrammet i engelska språket och litteraturen
Specialisation: ei opintosuuntaa
no specialization
ingen studieinriktning
Abstract: This thesis examines the role of the three female protagonists in Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun. The thesis argues against the interpretation of the play as pro-integration and assimilationist and posits instead that there is an inherent radicalism in the play that reflects the feminist and political views of its author. The purpose of this thesis is to examine how the feminist themes are highlighted through the three female protagonists of Raisin: Ruth, Beneatha and Lena Younger. In order to further assess these themes, the 1959 play is contrasted with three screen adaptations, by Daniel Petrie (1961), Bill Duke (1989), and Kenny Leon (2008). This comparison is carried out with a particular focus on how the protagonists are represented in these adaptations. The thesis begins with a discussion of the historical context in which the play was written, set and performed for the first time. This is followed by a discussion of Hansberry’s biographical background, in order to contextualise and clarify her political beliefs so as to better support the main arguments in the thesis. These arguments are also supported by the works of the Black feminist scholars Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, and Tricia Rose. The thesis examines the play and each of the three screen adaptations separately, presenting a close literary analysis of the play before contrasting it with the three films. The literary analysis discusses three core aspects of the play that serve as a rejection of racist and patriarchal values: the rejection of the American dream; the domestic sphere of the play; and the subversion of racialised gender roles and stereotypes. This analysis highlights the ways in which Black women experience a specific form of double oppression due to their race and gender, an experience that is reinforced by the use of racialised gender roles and stereotypes. This thesis argues, however, that Hansberry uses the female protagonists to reject these roles and the racist and sexist ideology from which they stem. The film analysis places the films within their temporal and socio-cultural contexts to observe how they reflect, highlight or undermine the three core aspects discussed in the literary analysis. This analysis reveals the significant role played by context in producing starkly different representations of the female protagonists. The analysis of these works, written and visual, demonstrates the enduring significance of Hansberry’s famous play, which continues to be revived and performed. The conclusion underlines the importance of challenging representations that perpetuate racist and sexist ideologies, and of granting agency to groups that have long been under- or misrepresented across mediums.
Subject: Lorraine Hansberry
American Black Feminism
A Raisin in the Sun

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