Date of Graduation

12-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Lisa Hinrichsen

Committee Member

M. K. Booker

Second Committee Member

Sean Dempsey

Keywords

Language, literature and linguistics; Bioregionalism; Ecocriticism; Modernism; Postmodernism; Southern literature

Abstract

This project seeks to draw from the insights of the emerging scholarly discipline known as ecocritism, study of the relationship between human and nonhuman in all arts and in all diverse forms, and apply them to the study of a specific regional art, that of the U.S. South. As an interrogation of the human / nonhuman binary, ecocriticism is intrinsically intertwined with the concept of place. Southern studies—having long explored the diversity (in terms of both human experience and geographical terrain) characterizing the region—offers ecocriticism a ripe testing ground for theoretical mergers and analytic applications. Both fields celebrate hybridity, multiplicity, and variegation. This project, in keeping with this argumentative mandate, analyzes a number of separate primary texts in a variety of formats. Each of these narratives features a palpable, vibrantly realized setting. In most cases, the text’s evocation of its integral setting becomes accessible to the reader or viewer primarily through the perceptions, words, and sentiments of a child protagonist. The characters in these texts and films operate outside of larger southern, national, and global societies, participating instead in insular communal or familial systems. Each relies upon an intimate connection to animal life for spiritual, personal, and or directly physical sustenance. Further, these texts, viewed and read as a collective, demonstrate a preoccupation with the nonhuman running through various genres, modes, and time periods of southern narrative. These preoccupations illustrate the potentials for literature and film to shed light upon the relevance of posthumanist outlooks towards biological systems and geographical methodologies and ecological paradigms of place and its nonhuman or more-than-human dimensions. Further, each of these young protagonists, as his or her respective narrative progresses, discover the previously enjoyed intimacy of their connection with the land to be endangered by modernity, capitalism, and similar threats to both natural landscapes and human lifestyles. The project of decentering the human underlying ecocriticism and ecocinema, in the context of southern studies, enters a pre-existing conversation uniquely suited to encompass challenges to age-old binaries and hegemonies.

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