Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Lisa Hinrichsen

Committee Member

Susan Marren

Second Committee Member

Robert Cochran


U.S. South


In the nineteenth century in the U.S. the concept of childhood has usually been equated with innocence. Fiction, popular culture, and theatrical productions have not only spread this idea of childhood innocence but also attributed innocence and vulnerability to white children while negating children of color those qualities. This project examines the role of childhood in constructing U.S. southern identity in texts from 1945 to 2004. Drawing on Kathryn Bond Stockton’s conceptualization of the innocent child, the child of color, and the working class child who lacks the “normative” protection of innocence, and the white middle-class child who is psychologically distorted as a result of the burdens of socio-cultural norms, I discuss the queer child figures along racial, class, ethnic and gender lines. Under this category, I examine the southern white child in Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream, Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin’s The Making of a Southerner, the working class white child in Harry Crews’s A Childhood and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, the black child in Richard Wright’s Black Boy and Endesha Ida Mae Holland’s From the Mississippi Delta, the immigrant and Native American child in Lan Cao’s Monkey Bridge and Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival. By focusing on twentieth and twenty-first century texts, this project seeks to identify the child’s agency (although limited by youth and dependability) in structuring his or/her identity in the South. I expect this project to challenge the assumptions of the historical and cultural construction of a monolithic Anglo-American identity as well as a narrow view of what “southern” means.