Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Margaret Kilcline/Konkol

Committee Member

Andrew Lopenzina

Committee Member

Kevin Moberly

Committee Member

Kevin O’Donnell


Appalachia is all too often a commodified and mythologized place in the American consciousness. Yet the lived experience of Appalachia is one complicated by widescale ecological devastation, high poverty rates, and most recently, a devastating opioid crisis. Though much of Appalachian literature continues to dwell in an old vision of Appalachia, an endeavor Zackary Vernon terms post-Appalachian, I argue that a subset of texts published around the turn of the millennium, a time when many of the labor-dependent, exploitative industries such as logging, hydro damming, and coal mining were no longer at work in the region, reveal a shift in Appalachian literary production. I term these texts Neo Appalachian because they resist the typical declension narratives that often preoccupy Appalachian writers. Writers such as Marilou Awiakta, Madeline ffitch, Robert Gipe, and Crystal Wilkinson address the ecological and social issues Appalachians face today and consider Appalachia’s role in the Anthropocene. Their literary narratives can be understood as a dense interactive ecology rather than as an isolated category of texts grouped by author or genre. To illustrate this ecological reading, each chapter identifies an Appalachian sacrifice zone, an area where neoliberal companies entered the region with ephemeral promises of jobs and wealth for Appalachians but ultimately wrought environmental devastation in the area. The first chapter examines Appalachians’ affective connections to generational homeplaces and kin communities. The second chapter identifies what I term geographic assemblages. Drawing on Jane Bennett’s formulation of vibrant materialism, I argue that Appalachia’s extensive flooding due to mining-related issues and hydro damming generates geographic assemblages where an entanglement of Appalachian humans and nonhumans coalesce into an affective and agential entity. The third chapter positions Appalachia as a hyperobject to reveal Neo Appalachian literary narratives’ ability to frame Appalachia as a hyperobject through their recognition of its deep time. The fourth and final chapter acknowledges Neo Appalachian literary narratives’ engagement with “Quare” Appalachia. A colloquial term, quare is being reclaimed by Queer Appalachian scholars, and in Neo Appalachian literary narratives, ecological safe spaces for Appalachians emerge. These Neo Appalachian literary narratives engender a better understanding of Appalachia in the Anthropocene.


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