Date of Award

4-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Ryan Trimm

Abstract

Efforts to define globalization often are delimited by concrete articulations focused on and about the economic and political processes within a global sphere. These processes dominate global studies in economics, feminism, history, law, sociology, and literature. “Permeable Boundaries: Globalizing Form in Contemporary American and British Literature” is an interdisciplinary literary study that explores how gender, racial, and ethnic categories are connected not through economic models, but through the subjective processes of agency, self-identity, and narrative making. These discrete processes of consciousness expand how globalization is imagined through the human condition. Engaging with American and British texts focused on the global cities of London and New York offers new ways to think about how marginalized individuals and communities make choices and view themselves as central protagonists in their lives. Globalization can be viewed as more than an economic construction that leaves those without capital on the margins as victims and rubes. This examination is about finding the means to embrace an English vernacular as more than a construction of Western hegemony that marginalizes those with no economic or political clout.

I draw on feminist readings from second and third wave feminists in the development of this argument, but am not interested in a proscriptive fix that simply replaces a dominant gender or racial construct with another, just as constricting construction. Rather, I add to existing discussions of globalization and literary studies by raising questions of agency, identity, and narrative form in an effort to show how consciousness both influences and is influenced by the global sphere. The feminist readings are engaged with sociology, history, psychology, political science, law, as well as narratological theory that focuses on how narrative is formed through agency and self-identity. As case studies, my chapters offer readings of Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe (2001), Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003), Louise DeSalvo’s Casting Off (1987), and Colson Whitehead’s Zone One (2011).

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