Date of Completion


Embargo Period



southern literature, african american literature, modernism, postmodernism, aesthetics, activism, avant-garde

Major Advisor

Veronica Makowsky

Associate Advisor

Clare Eby

Associate Advisor

Cathy Schlund-Vials

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


“Aesthetic Activism” charts and analyzes an archive of liberatory southern culture found in a collection of experimental twentieth and twenty-first century multiethnic American texts. Resisting the reactionary foreclosures of Jim Crow and the Culture Wars, and offering emancipatory alternatives to the conservative southern monuments of segregation, antebellum nostalgia, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and elite-white modernisms, these texts use avant-garde textual strategies to resist and destabilize these reactionary forces. Further, these texts -- ranging from W.E.B. Du Bois to Truman Capote, Randall Kenan to Monique Truong -- forward flexible touchstones of response, re-possession, and communitarian cultural production that offer both an activating, progressive history for contemporary southern activists and a set of expressive and artistic strategies for moving forward. Ultimately, this project emphasizes the power of innovative cultural production to resist, re-build, and re-imagine.

Available for download on Tuesday, April 21, 2026