Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Eleanor Shevlin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul Maltby, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Justin Rademaekers, Ph.D.


Examining Jennifer Haigh’s Baker Towers, News from Heaven, and Heat and Light, this thesis addresses how the novel as a literary genre is particularly well suited to articulate Rob Nixon’s concept of slow violence in a compelling way. Slow violence takes its toll over the course of many years, often disproportionately affecting the poor and those dismissed by the public at large due to a failure of pathos to translate over distances of space and time. Because of this separation, it is important to understand the power of story as a crucial means of bringing public attention to people suffering from slow violence. Stories of slow violence are generally regarded as less newsworthy because they are often not accompanied by commanding, graphic images that the public craves. The form of the novel allows an author to approach issues of slow violence with measured patience while clearly demonstrating how past events are connected to present and future consequences through personal connections with characters. Haigh’s novelistic works Baker Towers, News from Heaven, and Heat and Light take on the issues related to one town’s experience with the coal and natural gas industries. Their fictional setting of Bakerton, Pennsylvania signifies an amalgamation of many actual towns that have historically faced similar predicaments, providing powerful perspective to relevant current events. This thesis demonstrates how Jennifer Haigh’s employment of multiple generations of characters and illustration of their connections to past and future environmental harms speak volumes about slow violence in a way previously unseen.