Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Amy Robbins

Second Advisor

Janet Neary

Academic Program Adviser

Janet Neary


While there is general agreement among scholars about the violence of archives and the danger in engaging with them, there is also dispute about how to challenge the power of official records—whether such a thing is possible—and how literature might be a means to recover some of the lost stories, experiences, and personal histories of enslaved people. The stakes involved in preserving the deepest truths of slavery are high, especially for people of color, who remain both under-represented and hyper visible in objectified terms, and for whom there is ever the threat of a collective erasure as subjects in both history and contemporary American culture. It is in this context that I situate my argument in this thesis. My thesis examines the work of two authors working in two genres: M. NourbeSe Philip, a poet, and Kyle Baker, a graphic novelist. Both these authors challenge and attempt to reverse the violence of the archive in sui generis works that are explicitly concerned with the recovery of lost voices, experiences, and personal histories of enslaved people. Keeping in mind Philip’s means of interrogating the archive in poetry, I take Baker's Nat Turner as a primary example or test case for my inquiry into how the graphic novel as a form – one that is often neglected in literary criticism – might be especially suited for resistance to archival violence.



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