Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Ylce Irizarry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kristin Allukian, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Maria Cizmic, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Quynh Nhu Le, Ph.D.


Black feminism, disability studies, ecoGothic, migrant labor, pandemic, zoe-ification


This dissertation is about the exploitation and disposability of disabled bodies. I am interested in understanding how some bodies are vulnerable to systems of exploitation by virtue of their race, gender, and disabilities. Chapter one interrogates Alejandro Morales’s The Rag Doll Plagues, where ill and disabled female characters are disposed of during the protagonists’ journey toward national progress. Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in The Trees is the subject of chapter two. In this novel, ill, elderly characters of color are experimented on as their sovereign island is mined by pharmaceutical corporations. Chapter three discusses how James Hannaham’s Delicious Foods portrays a major food supplier that compensates drug-addicted characters with drugs for their grueling field labor. Each chapter of my project discusses how fiction constructs monstrosity as raced, feminine, and disabled. I begin by discussing how scholars perpetuate labeling different bodies as deviant. Critical disability studies scholar Rosemarie Garland-Thomson argues that deviance refers specifically to bodies that stray from culturally mediated expectations for “normal” bodies (Extraordinary Bodies 6). Each novel under study addresses the function of capitalist systems that allow for the disposal of these deviant figures after they have served their physically exhausting purpose. The comparative analysis I perform illustrates how these literary and historical representations reverse the Gothic and render the nation horrifying for the marginalized characters instead of the dominant social class.

My analysis begins by arguing that the use of history in Revisionist Gothic reveals oppression and resistance in American fiction. Although each of the novels in “Reframing the Gothic” is set in a different period and comments on varying historical events, they all use history to frame monstrosity. My study aims to expose socially constructed aberrations, such as racism, sexism, and ableism for the horrors they are in literature and reality. American gothic and disability studies scholarship, especially those primarily concerned with race, frame my research. My research identifies disconnections between these areas and aims to reconcile the growing distance between gothic, critical disability, and critical race studies.

While there are scholarly works connecting the Gothic to critical race studies and critical disability studies to Gothic studies, to my knowledge, no comprehensive study triangulating all three disciplines exists. This is startling because the gothic relies heavily on the literary portrayal of disabled people of color and literature by and about people of color relies heavily on gothic elements. “Reframing the Gothic” considers how multiethnic authors revise the gothic form to interrogate structural and historical policies that compartmentalize and contain disabled bodies. The sites of containment have either been neglected or over-mined for their environmental resources. Each chapter explores diverse temporal and geographic settings where policies that privilege white, wealthy, and able-bodied figures have led to mass environmental harms with long-lasting consequences for marginalized characters. Chapter one addresses environmental racism and its link to a fictional pandemic in 18th century Mexico, the 1980s HIV/AIDs crisis in Los Angeles, and a dystopic future where environmental pollution creates waves of incessant plagues. Chapter two addresses bioethical harms committed against an Indigenous population and attempts to exploit their bodies and land for resources from the 1960s-1990s. The focus of chapter three is the overlap of detrimental migrant farm labor practices and the 1980s crack epidemic.