Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In “Unsettling Geographies: Primitivist Utopias in Queer American Literature from Walt Whitman to Willa Cather,” I argue that the colonial discourse of primitivism played a central role in the queer literary imaginaries of both canonical and non-canonical U.S. authors. Building on the work of historians of sexuality who trace the complex development of the twentieth-century homo-/hetero- binary, I show how literary works produced in this historical moment—roughly 1860 to 1925—explored and in some instances even advocated alternative queer modes of citizenship and erotic imagination and practice. Focusing on the works of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Willa Cather, I demonstrate throughout that while those erotic alternatives have been posited as inherently politically radical in many feminist and queer theoretical traditions, the pervasive primitivization of indigenous bodies and lands in these literatures tells us a more complicated and troubling story about the co-implicated histories of non-heteronormativity and settler colonialism in the U.S. If much recent queer theory has explored the ways in which racial and sexual normativities derive from histories of settler colonialism, my dissertation contributes to this discussion by addressing how queer literary representations of racial and national otherness both challenge those normative discourses and participate in ongoing colonial and imperial projects.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Vivian R. Pollak

Committee Members

Iver Bernstein, Amber J. Musser, Anca Parvulescu, Abram Van Engen,


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