Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Joy Harjo-Sapulpa

Committee Members

Margaret L. Dean, Ben Lee, Tim Hiles


The Next House: A Fragmented Sequence treats the effects of an 1848 court case, later used as precedent for the Fugitive Slave Law, concerning residents of the author’s hometown who helped a formerly enslaved family escape to Canada. The collection investigates how the story of a confrontation between slave owners and abolitionist-minded townspeople was told to create and police community identity over the next 150 years. The dissertation uses excerpts of the court case and historical newspapers, text from state historical markers, interviews with residents, the author’s personal experiences, and ekphrastic treatment of contemporary visual art to interrogate race and power in a predominantly white, rural Midwestern space. The Next House combines documentary poetics, whiteness studies and critical race theory, and a hybridization of poetry and nonfiction genres to enlarge the conversation about race in contemporary poetry. While racism and racial violence are often thought to “take place” in the Southern regions of the United States or in urban cities, The Next House emphasizes the rural Midwest’s embeddedness in a racialized American history in order to expand contemporary poetry’s understanding of racial imaginaries to regions wrongly thought to be dissociated from discrimination and danger.

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