Tia J. Smith

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Eric Smith

Committee Member

Holly Jones

Committee Member

Joe Conway


Colson Whitehead--1969- --Criticism and interpretation., American literature--African American authors--Criticism and interpretation., Underground Railroad--Fiction., American speculative fiction.


The Underground Railroad borrows from the logic of science fiction, the epic, and the historical novel to both critique American post racialism and to upend the nation’s incomplete historical narrative of social progress. This thesis begins with approaching sf using the novel’s racial influences to contemplate science fiction criticism. It then examines the text’s adoption of the genre’s critical apparatus as a method to explore contemporary American racial politics. I analyze the novel’s structure, use of primary sources, and reenactments of historical events, interpreting them as tools to illustrate the novel’s view of the United States as an institution mired by anti-Blackness that threatens to ensnare the future.



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