Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Adams-Campbell, Melissa

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


This study examines the effects of vulnerability and trauma in American women’s literature across the intersections of genre, race, and time. In this dissertation I have applied a feminist long history approach to examine women’s literature from the seventeenth through twenty-first centuries together inspired by Mary Beard’s theory that compartmentalizing women’s history ignores long-range patterns and contributions. I have assembled the beginnings of a canon of women’s trauma literature that allows women writers to form a multi-century discourse community wherein trauma and recovery may occur. This analysis applies twentieth century medical research about trauma and recovery, particularly that of Judith Herman, to argue that women create generic spaces and discourse communities that empower them to testify to and recover from sexual trauma through a survey of significant genres of American literature— captivity narratives, slave narratives, seduction novels, sentimental novels, neo-slave narratives, and short story cycles—from the seventeenth through twenty-first centuries. My study is a starting point for further scholarly conversations about women’s vulnerability, trauma, and recovery.


212 pages




Northern Illinois University

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