Doctoral Dissertations

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    Gendered Violence in Indigenous Literature of Australia and Oceania: Surveying Archie Weller’s Day of the Dog, Keri Hulme’s the bone people, and Joseph Veramu’s Moving through the Streets
    (Middle Tennessee State University, 2023) Byrge, Matthew Israel ; White, Laura ; Hollings, Marion ; Brantley, Will
    Violence in Indigenous communities has often been studied in ways that attribute such violence to colonial conquest—when Indigenous land and autonomy were stripped away and replaced by a set of Western standards and rules. Colonialism and its effects contribute to Indigenous pain and feelings of unbelonging, as seen in many literary texts including the ones in this study; however, colonialism alone does not account for the complex and multi-faceted presence of violence within Indigenous communities and literary texts. The following study discusses three works by Indigenous authors—Archie Weller’s Day of the Dog from Australia, Keri Hulme’s the bone people from Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Joseph Veramu’s Moving through the Streets from Fiji—to demonstrate how literary depictions of the daily lives of Indigenous men offer valuable insights about different ways violence manifests itself in the present. For Weller, critics have misread the violence in his work by isolating it from other lived experiences. While violence and moments of disparity exist, Weller wants his readers to see the beauty and richness of Aboriginal lives that exist alongside violence. Next, Hulme brings attention to ways that the colonial imposition of Western conceptions of gender and sexuality continue to impact expressions of violence. Her novel calls into question the ways that performing and reasserting manhood can contribute to current family violence and explores ways to counter the erasures of non-binary genders and sexualities. Veramu’s novel also sees violence in a gendered context but looks at the ways performativity of gender and messages from the West about what a successful man looks like can affect the ways that young Indigenous Fijian men enact violence in their contemporary communities. While I approach these works as a Western critic, I practice a two-pronged approach of analyzing literary texts by using both Western and Indigenous scholarship in order to locate Indigenous knowledge at the center of the study and address ways that Western knowledge production impacts conversations about colonial and contemporary violence. I juxtapose texts from multiple nations with differing experiences of colonization to facilitate connections across contexts, but I also look at a variety of texts to reflect the rich diversity of experiences, perspectives, and literary production and counter tendencies to homogenize Indigenous men.
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    Burning Down the House: Racial and Architectural Deterioration of the Southern Plantation Home in Works by William Faulkner
    (Middle Tennessee State University, 2023) Mitchell, Melissa Burks ; Brantley, Will ; White, Laura ; Hollings, Marion ; Ostrowski, Carl
    William Faulkner found it necessary to destroy his fictional plantation homes, and their destruction mirrors that of the many grand homes in the South that have come to the same fate, whether by fire or deterioration. Built with chattel slavery, these ornate plantation homes, constructed in the Palladian style after Greek architecture, do not represent democratic ideals. In Faulkner’s works, the plantation home and its master are anything but magnificent: they are dark and monstrous. The beautiful fronts are facades that mask the horrors of the South. Faulkner’s biographical connection to grand homes and their history offered him insight into the past that he resurrects in his fiction. As his own home of Rowan Oak attests, Faulkner admired southern architecture, but he used its decay and destruction to expose the absence of true grandeur behind its walls, or in its past. Through the antebellum homes of his fictional Yoknapatawpha, Faulkner captures the angst that stems from the South’s faulty ideals, its legacy of slavery, and its fear of miscegenation. In what has become his most celebrated novel, Absalom, Absalom!, Clytemnestra, the bi-racial daughter of Thomas Sutpen, sets fire to Sutpen’s Hundred, abolishing the grand home along with nostalgia for the antebellum era and its strictures against a mixed-race society. Faulkner’s most glorious example of eradicating the oppression and repression of the past is by burning down the house.
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    We Are Done Dying: The NAACP Cultural Campaigns of the Early Twentieth Century
    (Middle Tennessee State University, 2023) Rainge-Briggs, Katie Lovenia ; McCusker, Kristine ; White, Tara ; Kyriakoudes, Louis ; Martin, Brenden
    The NAACP Cultural Campaigns of the Early Twentieth Century is a historical consideration of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s, NAACP, use of the arts as a stage for a racially empowering counternarrative. This dissertation traces the understudied history of the NAACP's use of the arts and humanities to support campaigns advocating for African Americans. The organization’s cultural work acted as a counter-narrative to popular media, which aided in the normalization of race-based violence by presenting blacks as characters that mocked their humanity and placed whites as the ideal image of humanity. The NAACP understood that to combat oppressive policies, an attack of racist rhetoric and cultural practices must coincide. Thus, the organization supported a counternarrative that educated the public on African American history, culture, and contributions to American culture. The research will augment historiography that connected art and creativity to African American humanity and citizenship as a response to racist oppression by analyzing the NAACP's discourse and campaigns.
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    Multiple Stories: Urbanism, Interpretation, and the Historic House Museum
    (Middle Tennessee State University, 2023) McCarthy, Meggan Rose ; West, Carroll V ; Kyriakoudes, Louis ; Taylor-Poleskey, Molly ; Martin, Brenden
    Historic buildings are integral to telling the story of a place. Yet, the prevailing conversation around house museums in recent years has centered around the idea that these dwellings are no longer relevant. While the traditional “roped-off” period room house museum may be a trend of the past, these sites remain useful to understand a deeper history of a place. My dissertation will focus on what historic house museums can mean for a community. Through adaptive reuse and community engagement, old homes can be powerful tools to educate the public and localize larger historical narratives. When a visitor takes a tour at a historic house museum, they learn not only about the people who lived on the property, but they can also absorb the changing physical and social landscape happening in the region. That synthesis is one of the key elements of contemporary interpretation. The research presented in this dissertation examines five historic house museums in various stages of development. The John Henry Carothers House demonstrates how a black farmhouse can survive encroaching urbanism and provide a community with the story of farm work in the early twentieth century. The Burwell-Dinkins House disrupts the narrative of poor black southerners, showcasing a home that served physicians, musicians, Civil Rights activists, and educators in Selma, Alabama. The Sadie Ford Heritage Farm serves as a comparison to the Carothers Farm; both are rural farmhouses in Middle Tennessee, but the Ford family were white farmers and educators. Their land has also faced encroaching urbanism, just like the Carothers house, where the physical changes to the landscape can obscure the important historical narrative. Two Rivers Mansion is the only antebellum property in this dissertation; the conversation is centered around enslaved labor and shifting interpretive strategies. The final case study, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, also delas with the concept of obscured labor, this time in an early twentieth century home. The craftsmen who built the home and the domestic workers responsible for maintaining it will soon be a larger component of the interpretive conversation. These institutions are all examples of house museums and their need for more encompassing interpretation to tell a larger story, one that encapsulates the entirety of the historic landscape.
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    Community-Based Essentrics Training Program
    (Middle Tennessee State University, 2023) Mooth, Merredith ; Caputo, Jennifer L ; Stevens, Sandra L ; Smith, Elizabeth A ; Fuller, Dana K
    Healthy aging is associated with declines in functional performance and the ability to complete activities of daily living (ADLs) independently. Multicomponent exercise programs focused on the development of balance, flexibility, muscular fitness, and functional mobility contribute to maintenance of functional performance in healthy older adults. One such program is Essentrics, a low-impact group fitness program. The effects of Essentrics training on physical performance outcomes in community-dwelling older adults were investigated in these studies. Physical performance assessments included the Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Chair Sit and Reach (CSR), Back Scratch Test (BST), Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), Timed-Up-and-Go (TUG), and the 30-Second Chair Stand Test (30 CST). The sample included 12 older adults (73 ± 6 years; 10 females, 2 males). Participants were recruited from fitness classes at a senior community center and had been engaged in different physical activities for at least 3 months, including programs focusing on aerobic endurance, muscular fitness, balance, and flexibility. Participants completed a pre-testing assessment prior to engaging in 8 weeks of Essentrics training. Post-testing assessments were conducted within one week after the end of the training intervention. There were significant improvements in BBS, SPPB, TUG, and 30 CST scores. No significant improvement was observed in CSR or BST scores. Notably, participants demonstrated performance improvements greater than the minimum detectable change values for the SPPB and 30 CST, indicating meaningful improvements in functional performance. However, high baseline levels of performance on the BBS and TUG led to smaller relative improvements in the ability to complete ADLs. Overall, Essentrics was a safe and effective training program which yielded improvements in balance, muscular fitness, and functional mobility in community-dwelling older adults. When taught in a group fitness setting, Essentrics encouraged exercise adherence through social interaction, with an added benefit of safety monitoring by a qualified instructor. As a low-impact form of exercise, Essentrics may be a suitable option when designing multicomponent fitness programs for older adults.