Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Julie Carr

Second Advisor

John-Michael Rivera

Third Advisor

Patricia Sullivan

Fourth Advisor

Joel Swanson

Fifth Advisor

Maria Windell


Castle addresses the rhetorical and ideological patterns that scaffold American concepts of domestic space, and the legal, literary, and cultural products of those patterns, focusing specifically on patterns related to private property. Following the example of recent experimental critics, my project collapses chronology, juxtaposing manifestations of each pattern to underscore the persistence of their respective ideologies. Also consistent with the emergent field of experimental criticism, I enlist my own experience as evidence of the subjectivity and, thus, culpability, of these foundational ideologies. My first chapter, “Private Property”, addresses this personal culpability most specifically, exploring the literary and philosophical methods we might enlist to confront and rewrite the ways in which concepts of “home” are used to justify structural exclusion. The second chapter, “Election” traces exclusionary concepts of property from the Puritan doctrine of unconditional election (including its legal manifestations) through Nathaniel Hawthorne to T.C. Boyle, and self-defense and domestic violence law. It argues that Stand Your Ground laws’ major legal renovations, no duty to retreat and immunity from prosecution, parallel those of the Puritan Antinomian (“free grace”) Controversy. Even as the specifics of Puritan election fade from common moral vernacular, Stand Your Ground laws simulate the persistence of a still-elect, “original” American community. The third chapter, “Privacy” traces the affective conventions of revolutionary-era sentimental fiction through to legal privacy doctrine (as applied to reproductive rights), the rhetoric of neo-liberal choice, and the rise of the natural-mother imperative. It argues that the absorption of demands for female autonomy into the persistent structure of sex inequality is a pattern that began with the Revolutionary-era privatization of female political participation, and that it repeated itself during both the first wave campaigns for suffrage and the second wave campaigns for reproductive rights, culminating in a contemporary resurgence of essentialist motherhood. That is, women keep asking for equality, and they get maternity and the private sphere. The shapes shift, but the rhetorical patterns persist; my project attempts disrupt, both critically and formally, the patterns of privilege and exclusion that haunt the experience of American domestic space.