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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Afro-American Studies

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

James Smethurst

Second Advisor

Manisha Sinha

Third Advisor

TreAndrea Russworm

Fourth Advisor

Priscilla Page

Subject Categories

Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority


Many Black women authors have been pegged as mere victims by oppressive societies; their characters have been deemed psychotic or suicidal and the emphasis of the majority of the criticism on authors such as Adrienne Kennedy is on the oppressive society and not what Kennedy does with the terms of the oppressive society; that is, as an agent, as opposed to an object / victim. Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection, delineated in her Powers of Horror, is a critical tool that allows us to see the agency and operation of the egos of characters such as those of Adrienne Kennedy, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Octavia Butler. I argue that these Black women deploy ideas and terms comparable to Kristeva’s and Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, which allow them to point out what is indeed abject in their respective racist, sexist and / or colonial worlds—that is, the oppressor who denigrates its victims, and lies, and creates what Fanon terms “zones” that isolate their would-be victims is abject as the creator of the abjection of these worlds.