Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in English

First Advisor

Jay Watson

Second Advisor

Leigh Anne Duck

Third Advisor

Caroline Wigginton

Relational Format



This thesis situates Zora Neale Hurston and the folk communities in her oeuvre within the context of modernity’s dependencies on fossil fuels. Such a disciplinary context provides an energy footing for our understandings of African American migrations in the twentieth century—which radically transformed the nation on multiple levels—and it illuminates the communal values that undergird Black approaches to petromodern forms of mobility. Furthermore, by engaging the Black spaces of the South, my argument begins filling a gap in the energy humanities. Few scholars in this field engage deeply those populations and regions that disproportionately experience the underbelly of petromodernity and that are often excluded from discourses of modernity and modernization. Thus, my readings of Black Southern spaces offer a fuller understanding of the meanings of the U.S.’s carbon dependencies. Additionally, I take this theoretical framework into an argument on Hurston’s literary modernism, revealing a distinctly modern orality in Hurston’s representation of the folk and rupturing critiques of her settings and characters as ahistorical and nostalgic.



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