Katie Burnett, a member of our doctoral students, was awarded a Tennessee Center for the Humanities Graduate Fellowship and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/American Council for Learned Societies dissertation fellowship for the 2012-2013 year. She has accepted the latter award. Katie is writing a dissertation entitled “The Dixie Plantation State: Antebellum Fiction and Global Capitalism” under the direction of Tom Haddox. Katie was one of only 70 students out of over 1,100 who applied to receive a Mellon/ ACLS Fellowship, and she is the first member of our graduate program ever to win one of these prestigious awards. Katie, who was also recognized for Extraordinary Professional Promise at this month’s Chancellor’s Award Banquet, will participate in the THC next year under her Mellon/ACLS Fellowship.
Katie’s dissertation explores how literature written in and about the U.S. South before the Civil War reflected the tension in the plantation system that formed the economic basis of the region. On one hand, the southern economy was invested in laissez-faire, liberal capitalism that emphasized individual opportunism, modernization, and participation in global commerce. On the other, the predominance of slavery and the social structures that sustained the individual plantations created a culture that was isolated, rural, and socially oppressive. The form imaginative writing took during this time represents the cultural impact of an economy invested in both international capitalism and a version of provincial feudalism.