In response to the implicit inquiry driving this special issue—how does American literature understand poverty?—I posit that it is a question of genealogy. There are multiple ways to address this question; for example, one might begin with John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939) or Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) to think through the exploitation of (white) immigrants and their labor or Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) to consider class stratification in African American communities. If approaching the term literature more broadly to encapsulate published scholarship in a variety of fields (as the selections in this essay suggest we must), one might start in geography with urbanist Edward Soja or interdisciplinary scholar, activist, and creative writer Mike Davis. I propose engaging the titular inquiry through a genealogy of the kitchen table, a mapping that emphasizes intersecting oppressions and privileges women of color writers in both traditional forms of literature (e.g.,...
How Literature Understands Poverty: A Genealogy of the Kitchen Table
Kimberly Chantal Welch is an assistant professor of English at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. With an emphasis on the African diaspora, her research focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century performances and diverse iterations of homelessness and incarceration, questioning the ways in which constructions of gender, sexuality, and race mediate how people navigate said sites of spatial dispossession. Welch’s work has been featured in Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, Modern Drama, and Cultural Dynamics and her forthcoming publications include contributions to The Methuen Drama Handbook to Theatre and Gender as well as Performance Research.
Kimberly Chantal Welch; How Literature Understands Poverty: A Genealogy of the Kitchen Table. American Literature 1 September 2022; 94 (3): 585–594. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-10084596
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