Wounded Beauty: An Exploratory Essay on Race, Feminism, and the Aesthetic Question

Anne Anlin Cheng, University of California, Berkeley
Vol. 19, No. 2 (Fall 2000), 191-217.

This essay explores the ways in which the expected political and moral discourse surrounding discussions of beauty, especially for the woman of color, displaces and misrecognizes the intense and uncanny experience of beauty.  Lost between a feminist rejection of beauty’s privilege and a racial denial of nonwhite beauty, the woman of color’s relationship to beauty affords an opportunity to explore how a critique of racism may not align neatly with a critique of gender stereotypes. Through a reading of works by Nella Larsen, Maxing Hong Kingston, and Toni Morrison, this article argues for the unruly effects of beauty, not as a symptom but as a critical lens through which we can expand notions of agency and subjective boundary.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]