Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Melamed, Jodi

Second Advisor

Canavan, Gerry

Third Advisor

Flack, Leah


This dissertation reads twentieth and twenty-first century U.S. multicultural literatures, women’s literature, and science-fiction film and literature to identify a tradition of literary representation of long-standing patterns of economic entrapment in American cities.” I argue that the capitalist ideologies of opportunity and spatial, economic, and social mobility associated with American cities have been largely false promises, and that literature provides an avenue to investigate the ideological matrices and cultural narratives that American capitalism uses to situate bodies where it needs them, primarily in urban centers. I claim that this entrapment remains more or less a constant in American cities despite the fact that both capitalism and the space of the city have radically changed since the late 1930s. I further claim that the persistence of this entrapment across different instantiations of both the American city and American capitalism speak to its normalization, acceptance, and the fact of its continuing legacy. As the ideological narratives are culturally projected as ones of the promise and freedom of mobility in cities, and as the historical conditions of entrapment have proven so resilient, literature and film have constituted important tools for exposing just how these capitalist ideologies generate consent for hegemonic capitalism. The dissertation seeks to understand how a large percentage of urban populations are interpellated by the very capitalist machinery which fixes them in space and class while simultaneously denying them the benefits of American capitalism.