Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2020

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Passable is an examination of Black and leftist women's writing at mid-century that attends to how certain women writers—Alice Childress, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Meridel Le Sueur, and Anne Moody—strategized feminized covers for radical identities and messages in their writing and lives. Leaning heavily upon the word "passable" for its simultaneous meanings of mobility and mediocrity, Passable traces apparently unremarkable writing for its circulatory capacities. Examining how working-class women's everyday discourse has functioned as a site of Black Liberationist and feminist subversion, Passable analyzes texts that have been overlooked because of their attachment to women's and domestic work—realms of solidarity and discourse that have been wrongly regarded as politically acquiescent and intellectually inferior. As analysis of writing activity that holds a tenuous relationship with the academic discipline of literary studies, Passable examines the historical contexts of the Cold War U.S. that contoured the professionalization of literary studies and, in turn, the metrics we still adopt to assess and describe literary work. Due to these implicit politics, literature as a field remains incapable of properly interpreting radical Black feminist writers and those they inspired.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Rafia M. Zafar

Committee Members

William J. Maxwell

Available for download on Friday, December 17, 2100