Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pat Rogers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Lennon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joseph Moxley, Ph.D.


Beloved, Confinement, Domesticity, Harriet Jacobs, Mary Rowlandson, Needlework


The term "narratives of confinement" redefines the parameters by which first-person, fictive and non-fictive, accounts of female captivity are classified, broadening the genre beyond Indian captivity narratives and slave narratives to include other works in which female narrators describe physical and/or psychological confinement due to tangible or non-tangible forces. Often these narratives exhibit the transformation of the drudgery of housewifery into powerful symbols of resistance and subversion, especially in reaction to traumatic events related to confinement. Needlework and food, including its preparation and distribution, frequently emerge as metaphors that express the ways in which disempowered women seek to regain control in their lives: sewing often represents an effort by women to seize power, blending the creative act with economic achievement; food preparation also relates to creativity and economic achievement and often represents love and nurturing. In this study, I examine three representative narratives of confinement, using close reading and scholarly evidence as support: Mary Rowlandson's 1682 Indian captivity narrative, A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson; Harriet Jacobs' 1861 slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself; and Toni Morrison's 1987 fictional neo-slave narrative, Beloved. My examination begins the dialogue regarding the connection between domestic metaphors and narratives of confinement, broadening scholarship to allow more consideration for the subtle, feminized language of domesticity.