Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.
Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.
Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.
Author ORCID Identifier
Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Peter A. Graham
African American Studies | American Literature | American Studies | Epistemology | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Ethnic Studies | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
My project, entitled Daring Depictions: An Analysis of Risks and Their Mediation in Representations of Black Suffering, explores what types of risks authors of African-American narratives take by choosing to depict specific types of suffering that either they personally and/or other African Americans have undergone. My main focus is the instances when these texts become self-conscious that they are taking or evading such a risk and explain, or mediate on, why they are willing to take or evade that risk.
Accordingly, my dissertation looks at African-American writers as they reflect on their felt obligation to depict black suffering and as they encounter the dangers of doing so. I suggest that they feel this obligation for several reasons: 1) They view suffering as inextricable from the historical experience they are depicting; 2) Writing about the cases in which suffering has redemptive qualities, both ethically and epistemologically, empowers them to help African Americans obtain approval as virtuous, benevolent citizens and beacons of knowledge; and 3) Their writing is a way for them to elicit empathy from their white readers in the struggle against racial injustice and oppression.
Nevertheless, I argue that even though they have these compelling motives for depicting black suffering as they experienced it, some African-American writers are also chary about doing so. For one thing, they are conscious of and sensitive to the reality that suffering has some qualities that simply cannot be shared. Accordingly, their writing is self-conscious of the epistemological and linguistic limitations of trying to express experiences adequately to readers that can only be fully understood by undergoing them. For another, they worry that by discovering and expressing redemptive consequences in the suffering that oppression causes that they might appear to be justifying it. Hence, inherent to their works is the fear that they may valorize suffering to the degree that it almost might not seem necessary or even appropriate to end it. Ultimately, I analyze how these reservations in and of themselves influence the rhetorical strategies that the African-American authors who I examine employ to try to overcome them.
Nurick, Russell, "Daring Depictions: An Analysis of Risks and Their Mediation in Representations of Black Suffering" (2020). Doctoral Dissertations. 2068.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Available for download on Wednesday, September 01, 2021