Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Lisa Hinrichsen

Committee Member

Susan Marren

Second Committee Member

Benjamin Fagan

Abstract

This dissertation project emerges from an interest in immigrant labor, the globalization of southern literature, and the ways in which laboring bodies, specifically those of food processing workers, casino workers and motel workers, are represented in contemporary literary and cultural productions. Literary and cultural productions about immigrants and immigrant labor aim to problematize and challenge the dominant perception of immigration and narratives of immigration that continue to perpetuate ideas of exploitation and alterity. In doing so, these texts contribute to the reconstruction of the U.S. South as a global region and to the liberation of southern literature from traditional conceptual models that reinforce its insularity and exceptionality. The introduction of this project argues for a different way of reading immigrant narratives that deconstruct binaries in the region in order to situate new immigrant narratives as contributing to the extension of the boundaries and borders of the southern literature. Here the movement of people across constructed national boundaries is no longer situated between spatially and temporally differentiated areas, but instead is seen as taking place within a global system. The contemporary cultural productions analyzed in the dissertation provide varying representations of immigrant labor and labor exploitation and include works of literature and a film. The first chapter examines the ways in which the contemporary immigrant narrative is employed in the novel Holy Radishes! by Roberto G. Fernández in order to trace the perpetuation of labor exploitation through exiled female employees of a food processing plant in Florida. Chapter two provides an analysis of Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full and focuses on the novel's rendering of undocumented immigrant workers in food processing plants and its challenges to the ideological and social perceptions of immigrant labor. The third chapter focuses on representations of immigrant labor, which is performed in the public sphere of the casino industry in Cynthia Shearer's The Celestial Jukebox. The final chapter analyzes Mira Nair's film Mississippi Masala and concentrates on the labor of Indian motel workers addressing, as in the previous chapters, deep-rooted labor history and historical labor traumas in the region.

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