Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Thomas L. McHaney - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Audrey Goodman

Third Advisor

Dr. Pearl A. McHaney


Combining the critical lenses of early American scholarship and that of the modern South, “Captive Women, Cunning Texts” investigates the uses and transformations of tropes of captivity drawn from the American Indian captivity narrative by women writers of the Southern Renaissance (circa 1910-45). Specifically, this study examines how captivity narratives, the first American literary form dominated by white women’s experiences as writers and readers, provided the female authors of the Southern Renaissance with a genre ideal for critiquing the roles of women in the South, and the official constructions of southern history. This work interrogates the multifaceted ways in which the captivity genre enabled these female authors to reject typical male modes of expression and interpretation, as well as male images portraying women in mythical terms that conflicted with the real experiences and boundaries of their lives. Through critical case studies of Evelyn Scott, Beatrice Witte Ravenel, and Caroline Gordon, this study demonstrates that many women writers of this period self-consciously returned to the literary past of American captivity narratives for models and, in so doing, discovered modes of discourse and tropes of confinement that aided them in their struggle to redefine their place and that of the racial and cultural Other in southern society, literature, and history. Their strategic re-employment of the captivity tradition literally and metaphorically provided liminal sites of exchange that both reveal and inspire agency and change in their unmasking of tradition, veneer, and the deeply imbedded cultural exchange of the white female body.