Award Date

5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

First Committee Member

Darlene Unrue, Chair

Second Committee Member

John C. Unrue

Third Committee Member

Joseph B. McCullough

Graduate Faculty Representative

Joseph A. Fry

Number of Pages

327

Abstract

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1850, the half-way mark of the century in which the country itself would be broken in two, Kate Chopin was destined to bear witness to the many divisions that have distinguished the United States. Especially noticeable in the post-Reconstruction period in which she wrote was the expanding chasm between the races. This dissertation argues that even Chopin's most seemingly orthodox Southern stories betray a quest for a theology capable of healing the physical, emotional, and spiritual ills omnipresent in the country and especially apparent in the post-Civil War South. The alternative to mainstream Protestantism and Catholicism, which Chopin indicts for furthering racial division, was the Voodoo of Louisiana and Haiti. This study shows that both her short fiction and two published novels incorporate elements of the African-based religion as tools for forging and metaphors of the interdependence of soul and body, individual and community, time and space. For Chopin's African American characters, the belief system serves as a source of power. Most of all, Chopin draws upon Voodoo values to question the role of art itself and to posit a more expansive notion of aesthetics than that which dominated Western thought of the late nineteenth century.

Keywords

American literature; Christianity in literature; Haiti; Kate Chopin; 1851-1904; Miscegenation in literature; Race in literature; Voodoo; Voodooism in literature

Disciplines

African American Studies | American Literature | American Studies | Literature in English, North America | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Religion

Language

English


Share

COinS