Date of Award

7-23-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Veronica Watson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kenneth Sherwood, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lydia H. Rodríguez, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study examines feminist borderland literary aesthetic patterns in three North American U.S. novels: So Far from God, Tracks, and Daughters of the Dust. I argue that a feminist border narrative theory is needed for critiquing U.S. women's border novels. Though contemporary narrative theory is often associated with poststructuralist or postmodernist practices, there is a plurality of approaches, such as: feminist, queer, postcolonial, borderlands, and hypertext. In addition, many scholars combine classical, structuralist, poststructuralist, and postmodernist theories when developing models for narrative critique. Most approaches, however, focus on Western aesthetic philosophies and Western cultural codes (Richardson 168-69). My study diverges from traditional narrative theories. I combine narrative theories originating in Western philosophy (e.g. feminist, queer, postmodern, postcolonial) with narrative theories originating in Gloria Anzaldúa's borderlands feminist and queer theories and theories by Native American, African American/Gullah, and indigenous scholars. In doing so, my model critiques U.S. women's border novels by grounding my theoretical foundations in the historical, cultural, and politic boundaries of border zones. In my dissertation, U.S. women's novels reconfigure cultural codes that have historically positioned women living in border zones as doubly subaltern, which means their voices have been silenced and/or left out of communal and nation-state discourses; their bodies have been defined by prescriptive, heteronormative definitions and expectations for women; their ability to move freely, without harm, in and across border locations has been limited and controlled by patriarchal, male-centered worldviews; and their economic advancement has been limited by these encoded forms of oppression. Drawing on feminist theory, semiotic analysis, literary theory, border theories, and theories of race, gender, and class, this study's model frames each novel's encoded narratives around themes of land, language, and cultural practices. All three novels are critiqued for their paradigmatic shifts from traditional Western and non-Western referents: the female self is resignified as a site of knowledge, self-enunciation, and agency. In addition, I introduce the terms direct and indirect translation to define bilingual, multilingual, and monolingual English as aesthetic functions. I also introduce the term reverse transculturation to define readers' experiences when actively interpreting the cultural, historical, geographical, and political woman-centered meanings expressed.

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