Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Leisa Meyer

Committee Member

Lynn Weiss


"(Un)Conventional Coupling" initiates a more expansive critical conversation on the contemporary neo-slave narrative. The dissertation's central argument is that authors of neo-slave narratives rely on the politicized theme of interracial coupling to both reimagine history and explore the possibility of social transformation. to establish a framework for my particular focus on interracial intimacy, this study extends the boundaries of the genre by adopting Paul Gilroy's theory of the black Atlantic. This theoretical paradigm serves as a provisional framework for both accommodating and analyzing the complexity of authorship, nationality, and influence within this large body of work.;This dissertation interprets neo-slave narratives' preoccupation with interracial sex and intimacy as a compelling reason to situate the critical analysis of the genre within a more expansive context. The prevalence of discourses and representations of interracial desire, sexuality, and intimacy within the genre reveals a preoccupation with cross-cultural connection. Additionally, authors of neo-slave narratives rely on black-white coupling to explore the concepts and realities of "race." Indeed, interracial intimacy provides an effective mechanism for this literature to invigorate a dialogue about "race" and why it still matters in the twenty-first century.;Adopting the term (un)conventional coupling to destabilize racialized ideologies of sexuality and desire, this project reads black-white coupling as a trope that represents a complex and conflicted sense of transracial intimacy in these novels. This study analyzes the representation of transracial intimacy in three different novels: Sherley Anne Williams' Dessa Rose, David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident, and Valerie Martin's Property. Each chapter demonstrates the different ways in which these authors rely on the trope of black-white coupling to construct the double-edged critique of black Atlantic political culture. First, this trope exposes a hidden history in order to reveal a more comprehensive and nuanced version of slavery and its myriad legacies. Secondly, representations of interracial intimacy allow authors to posit utopian possibilities out of relations of difference by creating a space for transformative acts of social reinvention.



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