English Theses and Dissertations

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    All That Hunger, All That Thirst
    (2024) Singh, Subraj; Brandchaft Mitchell, Emily; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    These stories are set in Guyana, and feature characters who demonstrate how the offshoots of colonialism continue to be expressed within the minds and bodies of formerly colonized peoples. Because of this, violence, avarice, addiction, oppression, and death occupy large roles within these stories, emerging out of character motivations, and emphasizing traumas experienced by both the individual and the collective. Through the use of realism and fabulism, Standard English and Guyanese Creole, as well as various storytelling structures and techniques, the narratives in this manuscript seek to highlight the sprawling and insidious nature of colonialism, and to bring attention to the harmful legacies that have been installed in its place.
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    The Other Life
    (2024) Cronan, Anna Patrycja; Casey, Maud; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    The Other Life is a collection of short stories about identity in between two cultures, Polish and American, and the gifts, pressures, mysteries, celebrations, and challenges that sprout from this experience. Showcased through interconnected stories centering food, language, the natural world, and a child’s perspective, this collection depicts a first-generation Polish-American’s exploration of identity. Three children visit their grandmother’s orchard, where mysterious events unfold that make them realize their grandmother may be a baba yaga. Two Eastern European girls find solace in one another in America, until they don’t. A young woman and her grandmother embark on a foray in search of mushrooms. A village in Poland recounts its complicated history with salt mining. Throughout these stories, the yearning and longing for a life that could have been is explored as a way to make sense of the life that is.
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    How to Leave Your Life Behind: Stories
    (2024) Daschle, Edward Sebastian; Mitchell, Emily; Creative Writing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    The stories in this collection, How to Leave Your Life Behind: Stories, feature characters seeking purpose and authenticity as they navigate queer worlds and queer identities. In the titular story, you learn how to disappear into a new life through the process of jumping off a building, a magical escape from a dull life that creates complications for international and personal relations. In “Thistle Land,” an old woman seeks to return to the portal fantasy world she explored in her childhood while navigating the emotional baggage of her mother and daughter who respectively saw her and see her as failing their high intellectual standards. And in “Who I Am Dead,” a dead boy making an existence for himself in the afterlife seeks to discover who he was when he was alive, and what knowledge of this past life might offer him, if anything. These stories alongside three others match purpose with aimlessness, authenticity with conflicting identities, and fantasy with reality. Throughout the collection, there is trauma and pain, but always with the acknowledgement that what they are experiencing is not all there was, is, or will be.
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    Mirror Made of Quartz
    (2024) Drummond, Kassiah Ania; Bertram, Lillian-Yvonne; Weiner, Joshua; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    "Mirror Made of Quartz" is a poetic exploration about community divided into four sections that reclaim the displaced emotion of rage with empathy. In the first section "Naming a Better Word for Love", the collection bargains the complexities of expressing love amidst trust and compromise. The next section "(Womb)an", explores how the gift of a name to a daughter, echoes the title of motherhood itself as both are becoming their new roles for the first time. The womb carries legacy, tradition, and trauma. The third section "I Think About Being Black a Lot", dedicates itself to exploring the aspects of the color as an identity, by delving into various culturally impactful folklores, redemption for the unsolved history, and new perspectives to the misunderstood. Finally, the title section, "Mirror Made of Quartz," serves as a supportive reflection of myself by commentating on my name, body, and the person I hope to become with tangible optimism.
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    Haptic Listening: Analyzing Black Women’s Witnessing, Fugitivity, and Refusal in the 1990s and Early 2000s
    (2024) Young, Dominique; Avilez, GerShun; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    The 90s through early 2000s was an era marked by vociferous noises. This noise included Black popular cultural expansions in art, sonic waves of resistance via protests against police brutality, the crackling of arson fire expressing the Black community’s rage in response to anti-Blackness, and calls for reproductive justice for poor Black women among other sounds. While this era maintained the loudness of both prosperity and protest, it also nurtured quiet resistances against the U.S. carceral State. Specifically, Black women’s and girls’ vociferous and less discernible practices of refusal situated within film, literature, and music videos also propelled narrative resistance against the atmospheric violence of the State. What were the quiet and less discernible ways that Black women and girls challenged the U.S. carceral State during the 90s and in the early 2000s? What are the lenses or methodologies that make this resistance legible? What Black feminist scholars have already practiced the method of listening to that which is illegible or does not exist? What do Black girls and women gain when we can see their quiet refusal in this way? What is at stake if we cannot see this refusal? These are some of the questions that underscore this dissertation. In my dissertation I argue Black women and girls vociferously and quietly challenge the 1990s and early 2000s U.S. carceral State in film, fiction, and music videos. I maintain that the excavation of their less discernible (or “quiet”) practices of refusal within these cultural texts require a focused attention to detail and a counterintuitive practice of listening to that which is illegible, indiscernible, or hidden. In this way, Black popular culture is a site for the emergence and existence of resistance that brings to the forefront the efforts of Black women and girls who are often marginalized in resistance discourses. Drawing from Saidiya Hartman’s “Venus in Two Acts” and Tina Campt’s Listening to Images at the intersection of Haptic Media Studies, I use a framework—haptic listening—for discerning and excavating their practices of refusal that are illegible to cursory analyses. Following my introduction chapter, in chapter two I center my analysis on Leslie Harris’ film Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992) and F. Gary Gray’s film Set It Off (1996). Through haptic listening, I trace a cartography of witnessing informed by Saidiya Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection, Dwight McBride’s Impossible Witnesses, and Angela Ards’ Words of Witness. I argue that specific instances of witnessing that reify Black women’s and girls’ subjection, fracture Black kinship, and disrupt Black futures are the catalysts for their resistance to the carceral State. In chapter three I examine protagonist Winter’s fugitive journey in Sister Souljah’s 1999 novel The Coldest Winter Ever. Drawing from Fred Moten’s Stolen Life, Katherine McKittrick’s Demonic Grounds, and Jennifer Nash’s “Black Maternal Aesthetics,” I argue that her fugitive journey begins and ends with her own vociferous haptic encounters—a process I call Circular Fugitivity. In the end, I trace a panoptic cartography that honors the emergence of her own political potential as she attempts to escape the grasp of the carceral State. And finally in chapter four I analyze the music video performances of Charli Baltimore in “Down Ass Chick” (2002) and Meagan Good in “21 Questions” (2003). Drawing from the work of Tina Campt in Listening to Images at the convergence of haptic media studies, I argue that their transformative practices of refusal are legible within and imbued by their identificatory photographs in each music video. These aesthetic practices of refusal, made obvious through haptic listening, appear throughout the music videos signaling the movement toward freedom. In the end, my project honors the less discernible practices of resistance by Black women and girls during the 1990s and early 2000s.
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    AFRO-MEXICAN FOLKTALES AND POETRY IN MEXICO AND THE UNITED STATES
    (2024) Tenorio Carrillo, Nancy Berenice; Collins, Merle; Long, Ryan; Comparative Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    The aim of my dissertation is to challenge what I call mestizo normativity. In creating and coining the term mestizo normativity, I borrow from Michael Warner and Lauren Berlant’s work on queer theory. In their work “Sex in Public” (1998), Warner and Berlant note that heterosexuality only appears to be normal because of public structures that regulate the sex binary. In their work they note that everything in public life is done with the aim of normalizing the male/female binary. This binary affects all aspects of daily life and can be seen, for example, in the male/female designations in public bathrooms and male/female categories in sports. I use the term mestizo normativity to interrogate how Afro-Mexican works of poetry, folklore, ballads, and stories disrupt accepted definitions of Blackness and Latinidad in the Americas. As Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores note, in The Afro-Latin@ Reader (2010), “we are accustomed to thinking of “Afro” and “Latin@” as distinct from each other and mutually exclusive: one is either Black or Latin@.” In essence, those who do not fall neatly along the Black/Latino binary are asked to choose between their identities. They can be either Latino or Black but not both. In a similar fashion, queers and bisexuals are made to choose between the heterosexual/homosexual binary; they can be heterosexuals or homosexuals but not both. With these definitions in mind, I read Afro-Mexican literature as queer literature. Afro-Mexicans do not fit neatly along the Afro/Latino binary; they are both, and in that two-ness lies their queerness. My dissertation adds to the field of Afro-Mexican studies by positing that Afro-Mexican literature shares similarities with African traditions, history, and culture. As Nicole von Germeten has pointed out in her work “Juan Roque’s Donation” in Afro-Latino Voices (2009), the African diaspora in Mexico is as much a part of Mexican history as Spanish history. Throughout the colonial period, Spaniards always constituted a small minority in New Spain and were overwhelmingly outnumbered by Africans throughout the colonial period. African culture, like Spanish culture, is also part of Mexico. In order to prove my thesis of mestizo normativity, I have organized my dissertation into four chapters. In chapter one I argue that Afro-Mexican folktales share similarities with West and Central African storytelling practices. In my analysis, I note that Afro-Mexican tales share similarities with trickster rabbit tales from the Bantu people in Central Africa and Hausa people in West Africa. And moreover, I note that these tales fall into the tatsuniya genre of storytelling found among the Hausa people of West and Central Africa. This genre of tales is known as a subversive category of tales, for it includes tales of small animals taking down larger animals. I argue that these tales are how Afro-Mexicans remember their African heritage. As is discussed in my first chapter, the first scholars to analyze Afro-Mexican folktales moved away from comparing them to West and Central African folklore because they understood all Mexican literature to stem from Mexico’s Amerindian and Spanish roots. That is, their readings upheld mestizo normativity. In my second chapter, I argue that the ballad tradition in the Costa Chica shares similarities with West African storytelling traditions. Moreover, I argue that through ballads, versos, and maroon poetry, Afro-Mexicans disrupt the notion of a mestizo Mexico. That is, they question the single story that has been told about Mexico and create a multifaceted and culturally complex site that they recognize as home. To drive this point home, I compare Afro-Mexican corridos to calypsos and argue for readings that include Afrodiasporic strategies of resistance when dealing with Afrodesendant peoples. In chapter three, I read Afro-Mexican works written by writers in the U.S. diaspora. I examine how these writers’ perceptions of race are formed in the U.S. Lastly, I examine how contemporary writers such as Aleida Violeta Vázquez Cisneros, Abel Emigdio Baños Delgado, and Filemón Silva Sandoval use social media to promote their written works and challenge readings that depict Mexico as a Black free space.
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    Speculative Citizenship: Race, National Belonging, and the Counterfactual Imagination in the Literature of the Long Reconstruction
    (2024) Ewing, Annemarie Mott; Levine, Robert S.; Wong, Edlie; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    “Speculative Citizenship: Race, National Belonging, and the Counterfactual Imagination in the Literature of the Long Reconstruction” explores how key Reconstruction writers addressed citizenship as a guiding concept. Writers such as Charles Chesnutt, Albion Tourgée, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman), and Edward A. Johnson revealed the malleable, unstable, and speculative nature of US citizenship and the Reconstruction era itself. Even as the 14th Amendment formally defined citizenship for the first time in 1868, its interpretations varied, causing citizenship to remain a contested concept with actively negotiated legal inclusions and exclusions. Debates and uncertainties about citizenship provided an opportunity for Reconstruction writers to delineate more capacious concepts of citizenship than its evolving legal definitions. This dissertation examines Reconstruction authors’ use of what I am calling the “counterfactual imaginary,” a mode characterized by dislocating, retrospective, or utopian speculation that works to represent the fluid boundaries of national belonging. The counterfactual, often signaled by conditional tenses, considers what could have been and what might be. Conditional tenses best express the expansive, utopian possibility of Reconstruction while depicting its present injustices. The authors discussed in my dissertation focus not only on citizenship’s legal definitions in their writings, but also on citizenship as it was performed and practiced. They speculate, sometimes wildly in experimental fiction, about what sort of world could still be created. They forecast a nation in which citizenship and national belonging were defined more inclusively than in the courts or Congress. Collectively, “Speculative Citizenship” illuminates inclusions and exclusions afforded by the 14th amendment. The first and fourth chapters examine literary portrayals of the ways the 14th amendment expanded citizenship in two ways—intentionally to African American men and inadvertently to corporations through the establishment of the concept of corporate personhood. The 14th amendment, Albion Tourgée and Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton suggest, established corporate personhood in ways that aided Westward expansion and the dispossession and exclusion from full citizenship of Mexican Americans and Indigenous peoples. The second and third chapters explore two exclusions of the amendment–the brief exclusion of former Confederates from the rights of full US citizenship and the ongoing exclusion of Indigenous people both in terms of a refusal to grant citizenship and a parallel refusal to recognize Indigenous sovereignty. Foregrounding the perspectives of authors like Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman) and student writers publishing in Indigenous boarding school newspapers offers new ways of looking at how citizenship and national belonging were conceptualized in the literature of the long Reconstruction era and beyond.
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    The Rhetorical Power of Appearance: An Archival Study of Beauty Ideals
    (2024) Walston, Alexis Sabryn; Enoch, Jessica; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In her dissertation, “The Rhetorical Power of Appearance: An Archival Study of Beauty Ideals,”Alexis Sabryn Walston draws from embodied rhetorics and feminist theory to analyze how race, gender, and sexuality impact constructions of beauty ideals and, in turn, women’s rhetorical styling choices. She considers how rhetors craft, maintain, resist, circulate, and queer beauty ideals in three case studies: UMD etiquette books, To Do Or Not To Do, from 1937 and 1940; 1950s bleaching cream advertisements and related beauty articles in Ebony magazine; and transgender beauty guru NikkieTutorials’s YouTube channel. In all three case studies, Walston determines that women are provided embodied rhetorical instruction in how to dress and style themselves in ways that afford them social status–including men’s romantic attention and women’s admiration. Walston’s analysis ultimately argues that dominant beauty ideals are a form of epideictic rhetoric that prioritize femininity, whiteness, and heteronormativity; further, conforming to or resisting beauty ideals by styling oneself in a particular way allows rhetors to assert their embodied identity and craft their selected ethos.
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    A Black Gay Sensibility: Art, Affect, and Black Male Relationality
    (2024) Cherry Jr, Fredrick; Avilez, GerShun; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    A Black Gay Sensibility: Art, Affect, and Black Male Relationality is a multi-genre, intragenerational, comparative study between the 1980/90s black gay anthologies In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology (1986) and Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men (1992) and the black gay male artistic production of the 21st century. The study focuses on affect, or feelings, and how black gay male authors deploy specific feelings methodologically that in the process develops a black gay understanding of feelings that rivals the affective turn. Chapter 1 begins by placing the anthologies within the tradition of the genre. Anthologies serve a particular function for minoritized groups: identifying the oppressions a group faces, establishing a group identity, and asserting a political or social agenda. The black gay anthologies of the 1980s/90s, which cite the writing by black women as their inspiration, follow that arc through their use of section headers and the texts that they contain, choices that highlight specific feelings. I closely read the section headers alongside a few exemplary texts from each anthology to theorize the feelings that section emphasizes. Loneliness, desire, and hope become my projects primary affective concerns. Loneliness functions as a social imposition on othered identities and develops as a weight, something to rid oneself of to be in community with others. Desire appears as the flourishing of sociality through friendships and romance; however, it is often interrupted by phenomena as varying as racial discrimination, health precarity, and loss. Hope, the final feeling, is about futurity, a cautious yearning for something beyond the present. The anthological generation demonstrates hope’s significance by writing on and through the AIDS epidemic. Contemporary writers respond to the affective foci of the anthologies and the rest of the dissertation tracks those responses. These writers take up the same feelings and either extend the theorizations found in the anthologies or undermine them towards a different end. In addition, by grounding my project in the anthologies of the 1980s and 90s, I extend the category of “black gay”, acknowledging the way that its usage consistently gestured towards the communal adhesion of black gender and sexual minorities, even if in its time, that gesturing was not always consummated. With that history in mind, my project reparatively centers the work of black trans and nonbinary writers within black gay. Chapter 2 considers Samuel Delaney’s Dark Reflections (2007) and Michael R. Jackson’s play A Strange Loop (2016) alongside the poetry of Cameron-Awkward Rich and theories of black transness to query the productivity found in purposefully residing in loneliness, a choice that presents a different relation to the social. Chapter 3 explores neo-slave narratives and mines the theoretical challenges texts like The Prophets (2021) and Insurrection: Holding History (1999) make with respect to theories of affect that regulate black feelings to the realm of the unthinkable through their centering of desire. And finally chapter 4 situates hope within the midst of discourses of afro-pessimism/optimism as well as the anti-relational turn in queer theory to consider how writers like Danez Smith in Don’t Call Us Dead (2017) and Jordan E. Cooper in Ain’t No Mo’ (2023) reconsider the feeling as an aesthetic through their focus on HIV/AIDS and black queer isolation. While centering black queer theory and writing alongside affect studies, A Black Gay Sensibility joins a cohort of scholarship that highlights the extent to which black feelings are rendered marginal or ignored by white structure most notably by way of Claudia Garcia-Rojas, Jenifer Nash, Tyrone Palmer, and William H. Mosely III. This lack of attention overlooks the way that black queer scholars and writers have theorized affect before and alongside the affective turn within queer studies. Thus, this project theorizes black queer feelings over a range of texts.
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    The Influence of Jacob Bryant on William Blake
    (1969) Svatik, Stephen Jr.; Howard, John; English; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, MD)
    To understand William Blake's complex mythology, one must understand the sources of his theories. A primary source of mythic material in the eighteenth century was the research and writings of the antiquarians, principally of Jacob Bryant. Blake shared with the antiquarians a desire to understand the origins of man and of the development of man's political and religious institutions. But while the mythographers concentrated on giving simply a temporal account of the development of man and society, Blake expanded on their accounts of history by analyzing the importance of inner man in the development of his social institutions. In A New System, Jacob Bryant discusses three points of mutual interest for Blake. First, he dismisses Greek mythology for having corrupted the truth concerning man's past. Second, he attributes the degeneration of religion to man's error of materialism. And third, he discusses the fragmentation of society and man's subsequent fall from an earlier period of unity, freedom, and peace. Blake's writings contain concepts similar to those of Bryant, but Blake modified and refined them to fit into his unique mythological structure. Blake's most significant departure from Bryant is his paralleling of man's social and political conflicts with man's failure to maintain an equilibrium of his inner essences in his establishing a ratio between the inner man and the outer world. Blake's mythopoeic imagination surpasses those of Bryant and the antiquarians in meaning and significance when he goes on to forsee man's return to unity, to a Golden Age of freedom and peace.
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    WOMEN, LANGUAGE, AND WOMEN AS LANGUAGE: THE PARADOXICAL DOMESTICITY AND SEXUALITY OF MUSLIM WOMEN AND URDU IN POST-1857 INDIAN LITERATURE AND NATIONAL DISCOURSE
    (2023) Taha, Fatima; Ray, Sangeeta; Comparative Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Although, since the late 1980s, much attention has been paid to the woman/mother as nation trope in multicultural colonial and post-colonial scholarship, what remains largely unexplored is the concept of woman as language functioning as scaffold for a gendered, cultural-linguistic nationalism deployed by Hindu Indians in colonial India. These “language woman,” a term political scientist Asha Sarangi coined in 2009, are diametrically opposed: the feminine anthropomorphic dutiful, mother Hindi, fit to represent India, and the unruly, courtesan Urdu who has no place in the incipient nation. In the last decade, scholarly engagement with Begum Urdu has been limited to structuring this characterization as demeaning, with Indian Muslims failing to subvert the marginalized linguistic representation in the fundamentally Hindi-speaking, Hindu project of the Indian nation state. Such a gender essentialist reading of anthropomorphic Urdu perpetuates the very androcentric society-approved gender roles it seeks to denounce, aligning with colonial Indian nationalists’ and British imperialists’ myopic ideology of one appropriate type of woman. Why must the courtesan lack agency or respectability and require reformation? This project offers an alternative view of Begum Urdu, recasting the language courtesan as empowered through the application of, among others, Foucault’s theory on authorized forms of sexuality eventually rupturing societal norms combined with sociolinguist Robin Lakoff’s interpretations of authoritative woman’s language viewed from both inside and outside the socio-political frame encompassing it. Drawing on feminist, linguistic, and colonial studies and bridging them with the concept of metonymy through contiguity in prose realism, this work offer a new metaphorical reading of Muslim female characters as representing both the Indian Muslim woman and Urdu in seven Urdu prose realist works: Ratan Nath Sarshar’s Fasana-e-Azad; Abdul Halim Sharar’s Flora Florinda; Nazir Ahmed Dehlvi’s Mirat-ul Uroos, Banaat-ul Naash, Taubat-un Nasuh, and Fasana-e-Mubtala; and finally, Muhammad Rusva’s Umrao Jan Ada and Junoon-e-Intezaar in which the metaphorical language woman is transformed into a real, round character and woman in the real world who functions with authority and agency as not only a character but an author. The Muslim and Urdu-language woman who emerges from these texts in the latter half of the 19th century gradually mesh the spheres of acceptable domestic sexuality and disreputable public sexuality to conceive a woman, who despite being untethered from societal norms, is a compelling representation of Muslim women and Urdu. In restructuring courtesan Urdu as reputable, this dissertation corrects scholarships’ sustainment of the linguistic hierarchy of Hindi over Urdu and the colonial symbolic Indian Hindu woman over her Muslim counterpart. Dismantling the British imperial and Indian colonial construction of a debased Urdu is imperative to redress the continued global devaluation of Urdu and even its speakers, including in Pakistan, where Urdu is the sole national and one of the two official languages. This dissertation answers Gyatri Spivak’s question of if the subaltern woman can speak with a resounding “yes, she can” and explores the various ways in which the marginalized and repressed can use language as a tool in an attempt to dismantle colonialism and subvert the authority of colonial oppressors while creating a singular identity, much in the way Aamir Mufti approaches the power of language.
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    "We Heard Healthcare": The Long Black Freedom Struggle as Health Justice
    (2023) Catchmark, Elizabeth; Enoch, Jessica; Fleming, Jr., Julius; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In her project, Elizabeth Catchmark traces the ways Black liberation organizers have positioned a guarantee of health as a prerequisite for citizenship since Emancipation. Their challenges to white supremacy named the violence of the state in making Black America sicker and organized communal acts of care to enable their survival in the wake of state neglect. By situating health justice as key to full participation in civic life, these activists refuted a disembodied interpretation of citizenship and offered instead an embodied, capacious vision of racial justice that acknowledges the entanglements of our environments, bodies, and minds. The genealogy Catchmark develops demonstrates that the right to health is a constituent feature of the Black political imagination across the long Black freedom struggle. Ultimately, she finds that Black liberation organizers, through their racial-justice informed theorizations of health and citizenship, illustrate that democracy and health are inextricable from the eradication of white supremacy while offering new ways forward for public policy, racial justice organizing, and interpersonal care.
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    Racing Imaginaries: Limit and Resistance in Contemporary Black Women's Speculative Fiction
    (2023) Nunn, Alexandria Jochebed; Konstantinou, Lee; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Speculative fiction is sometimes described as a genre of the future—a genre that celebrates technological and scientific progress and that envisions limitless possibilities. However, for persons already estranged by the reality manufactured for them, the apparent strangeness of dystopian futures, state surveillance, or reproductive and genetic engineering is not so distant nor so fictional. In this dissertation, Alexandria Nunn elucidates the consequences of writing and reading science fiction for authors of color at the intersection between realism and speculative modes. In this exploration of contemporary science fiction by Black women authors, Nunn examines the speculative literature of Nalo Hopkinson, Octavia Butler, and N.K. Jemisin as they challenge generic assumptions and reframe the stakes of science fiction and Black literary theory. “Racing Imaginaries: Limit and Resistance in Contemporary Black Women’s Speculative Fiction” specifically attends to a conversation between Black realist thought and history’s continuance into the present and future, which foregrounds histories of anti-blackness, alongside speculative fiction by Black imaginative authors which negotiates with the language of possibility even in repressive spaces where opportunity and expression are being silenced. Nunn maps a dialectic between Black realism and Black speculation in major works by Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and N. K. Jemisin, three of the foremost authors of the late 20th and early 21st century in the realm of American science fiction. Each author showcases the limitations of perceiving futures apart from race, while likewise suggesting alternative possibilities for growth and thriving. The conversation between these writers provides a template for understanding how speculative forms uniquely impact writers and authors of color operating with and against real-world phenomena so outlandish and often horrifying one would think them fantastic. Ultimately, Nunn suggests that Black creators frame science fiction not as a "literature of the possible” but rather as a "literature of the limit,” reminding readers both of the limits of contemporary lived reality and of the opportunities that already exist at their fingertips.
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    Modeling Wise Angers Online: Generation Z Activists and Their Digital Rhetorics of Feminist Rage
    (2023) Starr, Brittany Noelle Schoedel; Enoch, Jessica; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    “Modeling Wise Angers Online: Generation Z Activists and Their Digital Rhetorics of Feminist Rage” works at the nexus of feminist theory, digital media studies, and rhetoric to investigate how teen and young adult activists use 21st century social media technologies to challenge the sexist, racist, ageist, and ableist anger norms that disenfranchise young women in the public sphere. Each chapter theorizes what I call a “wise anger” strategy that its principal subject deploys to generate rhetorical agency for angry girl activists and change oppressive anger norms. The activists I examine are Greta Thunberg, Thandiwe Abdullah, and Shina Novalinga. While their causes range from the climate crisis to racial justice and Indigenous rights, and their primary platforms in my case studies are Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, respectively, they all make innovative, strategic use of digital affordances to reframe young women’s anger in public discourse. Examining datasets I compiled from the activists’ social media posts between 2018-2022, I use grounded theory and rhetorical analysis to identify patterns in the anger expressions in the multimodal, multilayered posts. I read the patterns through feminist and Black feminist theories of oppressive anger norms (Jaggar, Ahmed, Traister, Chemaly, Lorde, Cooper, Judd, Collins), cultural rhetorical frameworks (Powell et al.; Karetak, Tester, and Tagalik) and youth activist rhetorical frameworks (Applegarth, Hesford, Taft, Dingo). This dissertation is premised on the understanding that emotions have a biological basis, but are constructed socially, rhetorically, and culturally and thus tend to be scripted in ways that reproduce asymmetrical relations of power (Aristotle, Dixon, Fine, Gross, Harrington, Koerber). Ultimately, I develop a theory of wise anger as an angry response to injustice that is intelligent, informed, constructive, justice-oriented, hope-driven, rational, reasonable, and moral. The wise anger these youth activists model through their digital rhetorics on social media is part of a genealogy of feminist rage that envisions and enacts a more inclusive, more livable world.
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    The 25th Year
    (2023) Bronson Boddie, Sebastian; Weiner, Joshua; Creative Writing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    THE 25TH YEAR is a collection that seeks to understand what it means to bear witness. Cataloging their environment is how the speaker reconciles their fraught reality, making sense of the disorder of living. This disorder is reflected in the form of the work, as most of the poems are in free verse, with occasional variation. The poems in this collection explore themes of memory, community, and ordinary human kindness – and meditate on how powerful the practice of witness can be. In the tradition of Baldwin, Baudelaire, and the flâneur, the speaker observes what can often be missed, in order to connect to their community and themselves.
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    Confessions
    (2023) Hansen, Katherine Robbie; Mitchell, Emily; Creative Writing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This is a collection of magical women doing bad things. There are six stories narrated by six women. These women are: Louise, a woman cursed with the knowledge of when her husband will leave her; Joy and Amity, two young sisters struggling with their roles in their uncle’s small-town drug business; Lisi, a new mother who has been separated from her body; Flossie, a woman whose jealousy manifests itself in the mysterious and supernatural deaths of those around her; Clara, a conservatory musician confronted with the sudden disappearance of her girlfriend; and Ruth, a lost daughter who finds everything she wants in a magic powder which returns the skin to youth. Their tales are strange and otherworldly, occurring in planes beyond comprehension and control. The women narrate; their words always are their own.
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    A FRIEND COMES TO VISIT: STORIES
    (2023) Collins, Meghan Ann; Mitchell, Emily; Creative Writing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    From a pathologically shy student who ghosts her classes in Paris, to a directionless college graduate who cheats on her girlfriend with a much-older coworker, and another who, in lieu of leaving a bad relationship, decides to move to an apocalypse-proof bunker under the ocean, the characters in these stories are unified by their shared traits of curiosity, confusion, embarrassment, existential dread, and by the magnetic pull of self-sabotage. They are painfully ambivalent, sometimes throwing themselves with reckless abandon toward the object of their longing, the next seeking the destruction of all avenues of possible connection. These stories evoke the constant and repetitive search for meaning, identity, and belonging that characterizes young adulthood. Beneath the angst and self-doubt that rules each character’s mind, there is also a young person’s stubborn belief in revelation: the hunch that enlightenment could come at any moment, and that, when it does, this will all somehow finally make sense.
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    The Best of the Wreck
    (2023) Smith, Cecilia; Weiner, Joshua; Creative Writing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    The poems in this collection explore the cyclical nature of relationships, family history, and natural phenomena, as well as the extent to which these cycles shape the trajectory of one’s life. Surrealism becomes a means of control, as it allows the speakers of these poems to transform their surroundings through imaginative perception. This childlike imagination is juxtaposed with disillusionment, coming-of-age, and the failures of intimate relationships. Written in a range of forms and meters, including fable-like rhymes and gnomic stanzas, these poems investigate our instincts for physical pleasure while questioning what we think and why we think it.
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    Critical Montessori Education: Centering BIPOC Montessori Educators and their Anti-Racist Teaching Practices
    (2023) D'Cruz Ramos, Genevieve; Liu, Rossina Z; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    While many BIPOC Montessori educators engage in anti-racist and culturally responsive teaching, Montessori education remains predominantly race-evasive. As a philosophy, it is rooted in colorblind perspectives in its focus on "all children" and lack of explicit centering of BIPOC students’ experiences. Teaching must account for race and racial lived realities in order to better support BIPOC students’ ways of knowing in culturally relevant and sustaining ways. This study seeks to center the voices of BIPOC Montessori educators and disrupt the pattern of Montessori research conducted without a critical racial lens. Framed by Critical Race Theory, this study focuses on the strengths, assets, and anti-racist teaching practices that one BIPOC educator brings to her classroom. I use critical ethnographic methods to better understand how a BIPOC Montessori teacher at a public charter Montessori school interprets and enacts the Montessori method to support BIPOC students. I consider how her racial identity informs her practices, and the structural barriers she faces at her school when enacting anti-racist and strength-based approaches. The guiding research questions of this study are: How does a Black Montessori teacher interpret the Montessori philosophy to more relevantly support her BIPOC students? How does she practice the Montessori method through culturally relevant and sustaining practices? What are the structural barriers that continue to challenge her as a Black educator doing her work? My analysis suggests that the teacher maintains her classroom space as a tangible and intangible cultural space that reflects and maintains her students' identities; that her own identity as a Black woman deeply contribute to the school's work around anti-racism and culturally responsive pedagogy; and that there are external barriers that both the teacher and the school face, that prevent them both from fully achieving culturally responsive teaching practices. At the core of the study, I seek to understand the possibilities and challenges of Montessori education from the perspective of BIPOC Montessori educators, and how we could learn from them to better support BIPOC students. I hope to begin a path toward more counter-stories in the Montessori community to specifically support BIPOC Montessori educators and understand the structural barriers they face to anti-racist teaching in Montessori programs in the United States.
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    From Censors to Shouts: Ecologies of Abortion in American Fiction
    (2023) Schollaert, Jeannette; Walter, Christina; Smith, Martha Nell; English Language and Literature; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    “From Censors to Shouts: Ecologies of Abortion in American Fiction” registers the urgent need to revisit the literary methods of abortion storytelling in multiethnic American women’s fiction with a close attention to one of its most significant tropes: the herbal abortifacients that signify as both code and medicine, recalling the Victorian “language of flowers” as well as essentialist metaphorical connections between femininity, reproduction, and the natural world. This project traces the literary history of herbal abortifacients from abortion’s censorship and criminalization in the nineteenth century to present-day movements to reclaim or “shout” one’s abortion. The fictional mentions of plants known to be abortifacients demonstrate how literature can communicate reproductive and plant knowledge. “From Censors to Shouts” also offers a window into how the practice of domestic herbalism (a gendered and often racialized practice) evolves over the course of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries by pairing a cultural historical analysis of the herbs themselves alongside considerations of how authors’ fictional deployments of these herbs work towards visions of reproductive and environmental justice. “From Censors to Shouts” considers fiction from multiethnic American women writers including Sarah Orne Jewett, Edith Summers Kelley, Josephine Herbst, Marge Piercy, Octavia Butler, Ntozake Shange, Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison, Ana Castillo, and Kali Fajardo-Anstine. The fictional depiction of herbal abortifacients reveals our continued attention to plant knowledge and self-managed herbal abortion. Understanding how these plant names and knowledges have remained crucial rhetorical, cultural, and visual signifiers of abortion access is vital to understanding the reclamation of these knowledges as we re-commit to the fight for abortion rights and reproductive justice amidst a new legal landscape.