Date of Degree
African American Studies | American Literature | Literature in English, North America
domestic; flight; Gothic; heterotopia; Sentimental; slave narratives
The familiar image of a woman fleeing danger is a well-worn convention of heroine-centered fiction, a plot device inevitably resolved when the heroine returns safely to her home and family. This dissertation proposes a new reading of that narrative by asserting that rather than serving as a space of protection, the home poses the greatest threat to an individual's autonomy. If we understand the domestic as a space in which bodies are ordered and, more specifically, gendered, classed, and raced, the trope of flight from the domestic can be read as an act of resistance to subjugation. This act is both strategic and symbolic. Since individuals in flight must eventually return to a regulated domestic space, the act of flight is significant not only for what it achieves, but what it represents. The passage of flight creates a liminal in-between space, described by Michel Foucault as a 'heterotopia,' that serves as an embodied critique of social, political, and literary attempts to control bodies through domesticity.
This dissertation explores how British Gothic and Sentimental novels of the eighteenth-century popularized the narrative trope of flight from an imprisoning domestic space. It then demonstrates how this trope is subsequently reinterpreted in the genres of nineteenth-century slave narratives, nineteenth-century African American fiction, twentieth-century neo-slave narratives and science fiction. The trans-temporal focus of this project establishes a path of influence between these genres. This study will survey Gothic novels by Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe, Sentimental fiction by Charlotte Lennox and Frances Burney, narratives of slavery by William and Ellen Craft, Harriet Jacobs, and Hannah Bond, and will conclude with readings of postmodern fiction by Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler.
Davis, Sarah Elizabeth, "The Heterotopia of Flight: Resisting the Domestic" (2015). CUNY Academic Works.