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Clemson University

1. Samons, Kaitlyn Michelle. A Slow and Spectacular Violence: Anti-Black, Environmental, and Labor Violence in Muriel Rukeyser’s <i>The Book of the Dead</i>.

Degree: MA, English, 2020, Clemson University

In 1931, between 700 and 800 West Virginian miners died from “acute silicosis,” a lung disorder caused by prolonged exposure to silica dust. This event was dubbed “The Hawk’s Nest Tragedy.” The Hawk’s Nest Tragedy violence was best captured by Muriel Rukeyser in her collection of poems, <i>The Book of the Dead</i>. The poems within <i>The Book of the Dead</i> are separate from the perspectives of the victims who have died, but also currently serve as some of the few possible lenses for these victims to be remembered. Using Rukeyser’s work, this thesis will explore a single, central, question: How does the relationship between spectacle and slow violence help the reader interpret the politics of Rukeyser’s text? In this thesis, I engage with theorists on spectacular anti-Black violence, environmental and labor violences. I then speak to the theorists by engaging in a conversation on the role of the witness, voyeur, and spectator as defined by Saidiya Hartman and Jean-Paul Sartre; which is pertinent to a conversation on “spectacular” violence. At the conclusion, I explain how spectacular racialized violence is relevant when thinking about environmental and labor disasters like the Hawk's Nest Disaster. I will prove that the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster was not just an indiscriminate act of violence upon the poor Black community, I will show that the slow violence that was the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster was an act of spectacular violence; violence which was systemic, intentional, and repeatable. Advisors/Committee Members: Matthew Hooley, Rhondda Thomas, Megan Eatman, Maya Hislop.

Subjects/Keywords: African American; Hawk's Nest Tunnel; Rukeyser; Spectator; Violence; Witness

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APA (6th Edition):

Samons, K. M. (2020). A Slow and Spectacular Violence: Anti-Black, Environmental, and Labor Violence in Muriel Rukeyser’s <i>The Book of the Dead</i>. (Masters Thesis). Clemson University. Retrieved from https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/all_theses/3307

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Samons, Kaitlyn Michelle. “A Slow and Spectacular Violence: Anti-Black, Environmental, and Labor Violence in Muriel Rukeyser’s <i>The Book of the Dead</i>.” 2020. Masters Thesis, Clemson University. Accessed July 08, 2020. https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/all_theses/3307.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Samons, Kaitlyn Michelle. “A Slow and Spectacular Violence: Anti-Black, Environmental, and Labor Violence in Muriel Rukeyser’s <i>The Book of the Dead</i>.” 2020. Web. 08 Jul 2020.

Vancouver:

Samons KM. A Slow and Spectacular Violence: Anti-Black, Environmental, and Labor Violence in Muriel Rukeyser’s <i>The Book of the Dead</i>. [Internet] [Masters thesis]. Clemson University; 2020. [cited 2020 Jul 08]. Available from: https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/all_theses/3307.

Council of Science Editors:

Samons KM. A Slow and Spectacular Violence: Anti-Black, Environmental, and Labor Violence in Muriel Rukeyser’s <i>The Book of the Dead</i>. [Masters Thesis]. Clemson University; 2020. Available from: https://tigerprints.clemson.edu/all_theses/3307

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