Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)

Document Type



This project analyzes representations and self-representations of Mestizas living in areas of the Deep South that lack a significant Latino presence. Incorporating a range of media, I take a comparative approach to Southern cultural narratives and propose a re-reading of these works through an examination of identity formation and cultural negotiation. By centering the Southern Mestiza, this dissertation advances concepts of intersectionality to address the role of region, as well as race and gender, in the representation and experiences of women often overlooked in Southern and U.S. Latino studies. The Introductory chapter summarizes the theoretical framework for the study, including feminist and postcolonial theories, Southern and Latina/o literary theories, and concepts of mestizaje and tropicalization that are vital to critical understandings of hybrid identities within U.S. cultural narratives. Chapter One is a comparative analysis of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Margaret A. Graham’s Mercy Me. These novels explicate the processes of cultural negotiation for white Southern women defining themselves against Mestiza characters. Chapter Two analyzes constructions of Mestizas in Southern-set drama, film, and television and compares the various strategies of identity formation for white female protagonists in literature and popular culture. Chapter Three explores the role of the Mestiza in Cynthia Shearer’s transnational and multicultural South. The Celestial Jukebox provides a realistic view of the contemporary South and also critiques the marginalization of Mestizas in hegemonic cultural narratives. Chapter Four analyzes the revolutionary writings of two Southern Mestizas authors who are reclaiming a presence in the South: Lorraine López and Judith Ortiz Cofer. These authors model forms of cultural negotiation in writings that require readers to actively engage in the transformative process. The Conclusion articulates the process of interconnected cultural encounters demonstrated in the primary texts, and concludes by incorporating theories that embrace multiculturalism through personal consciousness-raising and a commitment to de-hierarchized communities.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Lowe, John