Date of Award
W. Scott Howard
Billy J. Stratton
Archives, Community literacy, Historical fiction, Postwestern
This dissertation gathers Louise Erdrich’s Four Souls (2004), Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men (1977), and Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive (2019) into a literary corpus that I call postwestern histories. Building on scholarship that situates these novels in Native American, Chinese American, and Mexican/American literary traditions, I show how these novels simultaneously cross bounds of ethnic literary genres to unsettle a dominating narrative of the United States West that roots Anglo expansionist experiences as foundational in archives, historiographies, and literary canons. This unsettling occurs in postwestern histories through three shared characteristics: prioritization of communities that are underrepresented in archival holdings, historiography, and literary canons; conscious questioning of the process of historiography; and employment of fabricated documents that shifts their function away from bureaucratic imposition and toward historical resistance to that imposition.
Engaging literary criticism with postmodern archiving theory and approaches to historiography, I employ methods from Tina Campt, Scott Richard Lyons, Gerald Vizenor, Estelle Lau, and Rodrigo Lazo, among others, to show how these novels unsettle Anglo expansionist foundations in rhetorical and physical spaces of the United States West. While postmodern approaches seek inclusion of nonconventional forms of historical evidence in the writing of history, such as ephemera and oral histories, postwestern histories suggest new methods for reading conventional records. With this interdisciplinary approach, I interpret the illegibility and states of motion of a fabricated land deed (Erdrich), a citizenship paper (Kingston), and passports (Luiselli) as signals of presence, agency, and resistance to bureaucratic oppression and historical marginalization. Through this repurposing of conventional historical documents as objects in the narrative, postwestern histories necessitate new connections among archives, historiography, and fiction; further, by making these documents impossible to interpret through conventional methods, they invite new forms of engagement through community literacy and community archiving praxes.
Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.
Turner, Alison, "Unsettling the American Old West: Women of Color Write the Archives" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1864.
Received from ProQuest
Available for download on Saturday, January 14, 2023