Date of Award

Spring 4-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Ira Sukrungruang

Second Advisor

Jesse Matz

Third Advisor

Sarah Heidt

Abstract

In recent years, literary studies have shifted to prioritize increasing numbers of texts by marginalized writers — texts that take on previously ignored perspectives on race, class, nationalism, sexuality, and more. Though such a shift should surely be celebrated, this thesis questions the ethics of present literary methods in tackling works by marginalized writers. Some scholars have already begun to argue that modern academia is obsessed with exploiting the deepest and heaviest traumas of these texts within the classroom. It is crucial, then, for us to consider ways in which we might better address texts such as these, without limiting them to their tragedies. This project argues for a literary approach that prioritizes the study of language of intimacy in these texts; the hope is that such an orientation can still give way to important analyses of power dynamics while still acknowledging the complex agencies that go into any given work. How might we orient literary studies in a way that does not do more harm than good within the current embrace of these texts? The bulk of this thesis acts in critical response to this question by analyzing language of intimacy in six 21st century books of prose and poetry: Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account, Javier Zamora’s Unaccompanied, José Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal, Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows, Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, and Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam. The last third of the project, after arguing for a more intimate embrace between reader and writer, thus becomes a collection of poetry that attempts to put these theories into the practice of my own poetics as a marginalized writer.

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