This dissertation examines literary renderings of postcolonial American space through close readings of novels by four contemporary American writers: Thomas Pynchon's Vineland and Mason & Dixon, Paule Marshall's The Chosen Place, the Timeless People, Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead, and Alfredo Vea, Jr.'s La Maravilla. My study is grounded in environmental criticism's emphasis on the relationships between humans and non-human nature, particularly the interactions between peoples and places. I explore questions of domination and subjugation, possession, dispossession, and repossession, home and homelessness in the world we think we know, and the worlds we can only imagine.
The novelists in this study raise difficult questions about America as a philosophical ideal and as a political entity. Where does this nation fit, historically and currently, within global affairs? To what extent does America have the moral authority it assumes over itself or anyone else? At times, these questions are posed through comparisons, both subtle and overt, between the United States and other regimes more recognizable for their egregious human rights records, such as Spanish Mexico, Nazi Germany, and Dutch South Africa. The authors then locate oppression at home by addressing the enduring effects of the genocide of indigenous peoples, the slave trade and the Middle Passage, and the creation of a racially diverse American underclass. In each case, human oppression is depicted within the highly-contested social space of the physical landscape and is shown to go hand in hand with environmental destruction.