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Waterworks: Settler Industrialization and Literary Experimentation in Twentieth-Century North America
  • Wednesday, July 5, 2023 - 10:00am to 12:00pm

Location: Zoom

This dissertation examines the cultural imagination of four North American environments: the Mojave Desert, the Florida Everglades, Lake Superior, and the Colorado River. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, infrastructure such as canals, aqueducts, dredges, and dams transformed the continent's geography. This project tracks settlers’ shifting understandings of water—from something to defend against to something to defeat with industrialization—alongside literary representations of transforming watersheds. I use the term “waterworks” to describe the experimental novels, stories, and poems that result from what Donna Haraway calls “thinking-with” industrialized water bodies. Through case studies of Mary Austin, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorine Niedecker, C. S. Giscombe, and Natalie Diaz, I argue that writers’ embodied engagements with industrialized watersheds have led to new modes of methodological and formal experimentation that challenge the boundaries of empiricism. In so doing, these waterworks contend with the harm created by settler industrialization while also retheorizing human–water relations.

Committee: Nancy Bentley (chair) | Dagmawi Woubshet | Jean-Christophe Cloutier | Nikhil Anand (Anthropology)

Jane Robbins will meet privately with her committee at 10 am. The public presentation will begin at 11 am, immediately followed by a virtual toast to the newly-minted Dr. Mize!

Please use the following Zoom link to join: