Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Daniel Fogel

Second Advisor

Patrick Neal


Over the past twelve years, Jesmyn Ward has published three novels, one memoir, one anthology, and a series of articles. After two National Book Awards, Ward has risen to the top ranks of contemporary literature, invited to universities and lecture series across the country. This thesis seeks to delineate the distinct style with which Ward writes. In doing so, her relation to other authors, both old and new, will become apparent. Not only is Ward writing fiction that is good, even great, but her writing is always urgent and contextualized within contemporary politics.

From De Lisle, Mississippi, Ward often employs Southern gothic themes in her fiction. Further, she develops these themes to fit a present voice and subject. Her engagement with the tradition always seeks to create space for marginalized narratives that canonical literature has typically ignored or suppressed. Ward’s narrative structure lends itself to the polyperspectivity she desires to produce at a metaliterary level. Thus, her technique often aligns with writers ranging from William Faulkner, Ernest J. Gaines, and Toni Morrison.

Ward’s writing is astoundingly fresh, yet other contemporary Southern writers exhibit stylistic similarities with her style. This thesis shall investigate why certain commonalities appear across these authors works and how their artistic decisions reflect and influence the reality within which the texts are situated. In total, I seek to offer a comprehensive examination of Ward as a writer, as a student of literary history, and as a contemporary voice conversing with others.



Number of Pages

81 p.