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dc.contributor.authorFriedman, Gabriella
dc.description218 pages
dc.description.abstractThis dissertation considers the ethical and political stakes of delving into the past. Literary critics have long contended that fiction about the past encourages an ethical relationship to violent legacies through a variety of narrative and affective techniques. According to such scholars, historical fiction works by evoking specific feelings in readers (sentimentality), bringing marginalized stories to the forefront (visibility), and filling gaps in archives (recovery). Departing from these approaches, my dissertation charts how non-realist elements transform historical fiction into a toolbox of political tactics such as direct action, covert movement, tangible care, community building, and the calculated use of the law. In other words, speculative tropes make history concrete in order to kindle decolonial and abolitionist politics. Each chapter highlights the world-making quality of Black and Indigenous political imaginaries. My first chapter, on Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, explores how the sentimental conventions deployed in many neo-slave narratives can unintentionally undermine the genre’s revolutionary goals by facilitating domestication that bolsters the antiblack nation-state. Whitehead’s unsentimental novel of slavery instead turns towards affiliation mediated by palpable care. Chapter two argues that Blake Hausman’s Riding the Trail of Tears demonstrates how making Indigenous history visible can collude with the assimilative function of settler colonial capitalism. In chapter three, I explore the limits of recovery through Octavia Butler’s novel Fledgling as well as Butler’s unpublished papers. I assert that Fledgling’s Black amnesiac protagonist models how to grapple strategically with an unrecoverable history. Reconceiving both speculative fiction and historical fiction, my project intervenes in broader conversations across the humanities about what constitutes an ethical relationship to the past. I demonstrate that though speculative fiction appears concerned with the fantastical, imaginative, or contemplative realms, it offers concrete tools for dealing with tangible injustices that persist in our current moment.
dc.rightsAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
dc.subjectAmerican studies
dc.subjectBlack studies
dc.subjectcontemporary literature
dc.subjecthistory and literature
dc.subjectIndigenous studies
dc.subjectspeculative fiction
dc.titleSpeculative Pasts, Radical Politics: Historicizing in Black and Indigenous Fiction
dc.typedissertation or thesis
dc.description.embargo2023-06-09 Language and Literature University of Philosophy D., English Language and Literature
dc.contributor.chairAnker, Elizabeth
dc.contributor.committeeMemberSamuels, Shirley R.
dc.contributor.committeeMemberBrady, Mary Pat

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