This dissertation uses a series of historical and contemporary legal cases to foreground relationships between identity, fiction, and the law. Drawing from literatures in feminist studies, critical race theory, critical legal studies, and history and American Studies, I trace the salience of fiction in the legal cases and legal memory of six women (Betsy, Frankie Silver, Margaret Garner, Edith Maxwell, Joan Little, and Crystal Mangum). I argue that forms of fiction became the primary means of transmitting information about these legal cases and the broader issues of race, gender, and class surrounding them. Fiction and cultural work enable the violence of the law by reinforcing negative cultural narratives about race, gender, and class while also justifying legal disciplining.
This project makes contributions to the fields of law and society, feminist studies, critical legal theories, and intersectionality scholarship. In addition to theorizing the violence of the law via relationships to fiction, I argue that specific regional expectations about identity within the US South must be incorporated into intersectional analyses where relevant. This dissertation seeks to more fully account for the experiences of marginalized women within the legal system, and more broadly to account for the interconnectedness of law and narrative.
Dissertation Copy Available in the POLS Director of Graduate Studies’ (DGS) office? Yes