Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

English and American Literature


English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Rafia Zafar


In my dissertation, I note the frequent, post-Civil War presence of an individual character that opposes a lynch mob by interceding on behalf of the intended lynching victim. I argue that this figure, which I term the lynching intercessor, is a trope for racial reconciliation in American literature and film. The intercessor works to mediate between loyalty to an ideal democracy and recognition of a past and present that is inextricable from violent, racist oppression. While the lynching intercessor often negotiates the prevention of violence, the intercessor also re-imbues the professional, white: and, usually, male) individual as the rightful embodiment of law and citizenship. By exploring the incarnations of this character type in the works of Charles Chesnutt, Thomas Dixon, Jr., director John Ford, William Faulkner, and Harper Lee, my dissertation reveals the lynching intercessor as an American narrative technique for incorporating lynching into a national story of racial progress.


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