ORCID ID

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9512-4190

Date Awarded

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

American Studies

Advisor

Elizabeth M. Losh

Committee Member

Jamel K. Donnor

Committee Member

Hermine D. Pinson

Committee Member

Ebony E. Thomas

Abstract

The fantasy genre, which can apply to narratives in literature and in other media, provides unique opportunities to engage with liberation, in particular creative freedom and the ability to engineer new futures. Black girls, as protagonists and creators of fantasy narratives, who have formerly been all but absent in the field with the exception of a few prominent examples, have suddenly begun to saturate the field. This explosion of activity prompted this investigation on why and how Black girls are flocking to fantasy, futuristic and digital narratives. In this dissertation, I use a series of case studies from a variety of media that were created by Black women and which center Black girls as protagonists to explore these questions and more. This project is a quintessential American Studies project in that it depends on a melange of methods and theories to adequately investigate these problems. It takes an autoethnographic approach, as I center my own experiences as a Black girl fan of these fantasy narratives and how it shaped my understanding of self, as well as tools from literary scholarship, such as close readings paired with historical context. In addition, it draws strength from Black feminist theory, Black girls’ literacy scholarship, Afrofuturism, and my own conceptualization of the intersections of fantasy and technology: technomagic girlhood. Chapter 1 explores the landscape of trade publishing’s young adult fantasy narratives for Black girls in the last five years. It charts a lineage of Black women in speculative fiction up to the recent explosion, with close readings of two books which make a case for self-definition and Black girls’ agency using legends, myths and retellings. Chapter 2 argues for a term which specifically characterizes Black girls’ creative self-expression and self-definition in a contemporary moment defined by digital media: technomagic girlhood. This chapter uses Eve Ewing’s Riri Williams: Ironheart comic books as a case study for how modern Black girls use both technology and fantasy to chart their own conceptions of their girlhoods. Chapter 3 argues for a poetics of technomagic girlhood that we see often in our media, built around three key themes: glitches (the digital), ghosts (memory and generational ties) and gulfs (water). The visual albums Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe and Lemonade by Beyoncé provide this chapter’s case study. Chapter 4 underscores how the digital provides fertile ground for experimentation, self-definition and relational group identity by locating Micah Ariel Watson’s Black Enough as a genre-defying piece of art which relies on multiple media forms. I argue that Micah Ariel Watson’s Black Enough webseries uses a combination of digital and analogue technologies and alchemies to produce a rich, multifaceted narrative about Black girls’ selfhood that is reflected on the screen and behind the scenes. The fifth chapter on pedagogy argues that technomagic enables educators to acknowledge the contemporary digital landscape in which Black girls find themselves and encourage the alchemic creation they produce.

DOI

https://dx.doi.org/10.21220/s2-wm1s-tj53

Rights

© The Author

Available for download on Monday, May 20, 2024

COinS