Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Tim Watson

Second Committee Member

Gregg Crane

Third Committee Member

John Funchion

Fourth Committee Member

Joel Nickels


This dissertation investigates some of the ways in which nineteenth-century American literatures interrogate liberal subjectivity through the trope of the criminal. Specifically I argue that the texts treated hereafter employ the trope of criminality to imagine and model transformations of liberal subjectivity. One can divide my argument into two sections, each composed of two chapters. In my first section I discuss how Uncle Tom's Cabin and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl challenge the legislation enfranchising slavery through narrated dialectics. The second section, which takes as its foci The Blithedale Romance and some of Bret Harte's short fiction published between 1868 and 1870, examines how narratives interrogate the domestic in emergent communities. In brief, I argue that the concept of criminality affords these texts the opportunity to press on liberal subjectivity. It is not the well-behaved characters in whom these narratives invest interiority, but those who violate (or at least express their willingness to violate) particular elements of legal codes.


American Literature; Harriet Beecher Stowe; Harriet Jacobs; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Bret Harte; Law in Literature