Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



My dissertation argues that lesbian caretaking in late 20th century and early 21th century North American fiction disrupts normative temporalities while repairing damage protagonists sustain from intra-familial trauma. Aligned with queer studies’ growing interest in representations of time, my project explores this paradox of lesbian representation. How can lesbian characters be both reparative and disruptive? Lesbian characters in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1980); Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina (1992); and Louise Erdrich’s Shadow Tag (2010) are reparative as they clean up the psychological and physical damage caused male violence, sexual abuse, and neglectful mothers. Yet their caregiving disrupts what queer theorists refer to as ‘straight time.’ Functioning to ensure maximum productivity for the state, straight time requires a linear model of time, dependent on heterosexual reproduction. Mothering is central to the reproduction of straight time, as through their discipline, mothers ensure children adhere to linear temporality. Because lesbian characters are queer, they exist outside of this normative timeframe, but as careworkers they are implicated in this normative discipling. In other words, the behavioral expectation of women – caring – thrusts lesbian characters into a narrative space where they are neither completely assimilated into heterosexual families nor completely excluded from them. In fact, heterosexual families in these texts depend upon lesbian caretaking to function. Yet, despite this connection to heternormativity, lesbian characters do not perform straight care. Nor do they offer protagonists a queer alternative to straight time. Instead, in these three texts, lesbians provide a kind of queer care that offers knowledge about the discipline that maintains the boundary between straight time and queer temporality. I am currently developing my dissertation into a book manuscript titled Magical Queers in Troubled Times: Lesbian Carework in Fiction, Film, and Television, which expands my archive to include representation of lesbian carework in mass mediated genres. My research contributes to cultural studies, positing links between queer feminist literary studies, gender studies, and sociological feminist carework studies. This project intervenes in existing theories of queer temporality by arguing that the gendered expectation that women will do most of the caretaking in families must be considered. While some queer theorists look towards an ideal queer futurity that is separated from heteronormative, reproductive futurity, I show in my research that feminized caring norms moor queer women to reproductive futurity.



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Committee Chair

Otero, Solimar