Date of Graduation

12-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Susan Marren

Committee Member

Yajaira Padilla

Second Committee Member

Kay Yandell

Keywords

Failure, Global feminism, Hope, Marxism, Queer theory, Utopia

Abstract

My primary purpose in this project is to dispel the notion that the white, bourgeois, patriarchal, nuclear family believed by millions of US citizens to have once monopolized the United States’s cultural landscape through an examination of how women authors in the United States constructed families in literature immediately following the Civil War. Not only do the novels under examination reflect diverse representations of families, but they also reflect those images from diverse perspectives. I will use a Marxist lens to explore class and ideologic interpellation; a renegade global feminist lens to explore failure and differential consciousness; a queer and sociological lens to explore trauma and visions of utopia; and a critical race lens to explore the legal and political policies related to the construction of family to reveal a broader vision of how American families were constructed near the turn of the 20th century, and to dispel any myths about a past reality that many believe is now lost because of postmodern interventions, political correctness, and corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. United States citizens have been constructing families in their own way for a very long time, and while there is no shortage of evidence of the intended ideal, there has been little evidence of alternatives to that ideal, particularly on women’s studies’ syllabi. The novels under examination are The Awakening by Kate Chopin; Hagar’s Daughter: A Story of Southern Caste Prejudice by Pauline Hopkins; Interweaving by Lida Churchill; and Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes by Ella Thayer. Each chapter will analyze the construction of family within the novel compared to the bourgeois American ideal, examine the racial and economic barriers to achieving the ideal construction of family, explore the potential harm to individuals in constructing the ideal family, and demonstrate a more robust method of teaching women’s lived experiences in American literature survey courses.

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