Date of Award

8-9-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Pearl McHaney

Second Advisor

Gina Caison

Third Advisor

Randy Malamud

Abstract

The lives of Appalachian women and other disenfranchised people of the region have been closely entwined with the natural landscape of the mountains for centuries. This dissertation analyzes, from an ecofeminist perspective, the premiere novels of three contemporary Appalachian women writers and explores expressions of these historic connections from past to present. Although written from decidedly different perspectives and set in distinct geographic regions, Amy Greene’s Bloodroot (2010), Crystal Wilkinson’s The Birds of Opulence (2016), and Mesha Maren’s Sugar Run (2019) each tell of multiple generations of matriarch-led families in Appalachia. In each novel, the contemporary generation of women are drawn to the land and lore of their Appalachian ancestry but ultimately struggle to thrive there in modern times. Ecofeminist analysis reveals that the challenges faced by these contemporary women are often traceable to the entwined oppressions of women and land imposed by those in power throughout Appalachian history and Euro-Western history at large. Although Bloodroot, The Birds of Opulence, and Sugar Run all delve into the reverberations of patriarchal domination in Appalachia, each also imagines unique opportunities for Appalachians to achieve liberation for themselves and for the natural landscapes of the regions that they call home. However, each of these novels also misses the opportunity to investigate women’s relationship with the Appalachian land beyond their own ancestry, furthering blind spots to the interwoven importance of Indigeneity in the Appalachian region and worldwide.

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