Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in English

First Advisor

Leigh Anne Duck

Second Advisor

Jay D. Watson

Third Advisor

Shennette Garrett-Scott


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



This dissertation broadens the definition of confinement literature, a critical and developing subfield in African American literary studies. It argues that contemporary Black women writers are the early theorists of the complex and insidious reach of the U.S. prison-industrial complex. Through their probing representations of Black female characters’ interactions with state-sanctioned social control and patriarchal violence, Gayl Jones, Alice Walker, Suzan-Lori Parks, and DaMaris B. Hill expand critical understandings of confinement and imprisonment. This dissertation contends that these writers’ depictions of sexual and reproductive control as part of the developing carceral state reveal how confinement and imprisonment operate on intersecting oppressions of race and gender. As a purposefully interdisciplinary endeavor, “Carceral Matrix” merges African American literary studies, Black feminist theory, and critical prison studies to 1) document the rich but often overlooked literary history of Black women’s responses to confinement, state surveillance, and violence and 2) theorize how Black women writers have used their respective genres to explore these methods of social control.



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