“She Moves Through Deep Corridors”: Mobility and Settler Colonialism in Sharon Doubiago’s Proletarian Eco-Epic Hard Country
Keywords:American literature, epic poetry, mobility, social class, settler colonialism
This article analyzes Sharon Doubiago’s American long poem Hard Country (1982) from the joined perspectives of ecocriticism and mobility studies. It argues that Hard Country is a proletarian eco-epic that rethinks human-nature relations from a working-class perspective shaped by different kinds of (im)mobility. In my analysis, I show how the text revises the American epic tradition by foregrounding working-class people’s desire for meaningful relationships to place in light of histories of environmental injustice and displacement. Doubiago’s text promotes traditional place-based notions of belonging, but it also challenges ideas about what kind of sense of place can be environmentally suggestive. In doing so, it allows for the emergence of a proletarian “ecopoetics of mobility” (Gerhardt) that emphasizes the bodily experiences of Doubiago’s mobile narrator as well as U.S.-American histories and cultures of mobility. Among these cultures of mobility, settler colonialism stands out as a system of violent domination and form of environmental injustice (Whyte) that calls into question working-class people’s desire to move or settle on dispossessed indigenous lands. As such, settler colonialism poses a challenge to Doubiago’s proletarian ecopoetics of mobility, which must engage with the fact that white working-class people in the United States have always been perpetrators as well as victims of both environmental and mobility injustice.
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