New Orleans Exceptionalism in the Cultural Response to Hurricane Katrina

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Patrick Massey


This thesis studies significant literary and visual-media responses to the flooding of New Orleans after the passage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At one level, it discusses how representations of New Orleans in “Katrina culture” either radically refashion or embody alternatives to historical paradigms of New Orleans exceptionalism, of New Orleans as a sui generis enclave. More than that, it argues that practices of “representing the city” illuminate and participate in Katrina culture’s overarching project, as theorized here, of “recovering the victim”: reinvesting Katrina victims with the voice, dignity, and agency they were denied in mass popular and media responses to Katrina. The thesis analyses texts’ representational and recovery practices, both separately and in terms of how they interrelate, across narrative non-fictional Katrina culture (section 1) and original creative Katrina culture (section 2). Within narrative non-fictional Katrina culture, Section 1 identifies two “Dorian” and “Locrian” sets of practices, each comprising a “mode” of representation and a “manner” of recovery. Within original creative Katrina culture, Section 2 identifies four “ordinary”, “microcosmic”, “globalist”, and “neoclassical” sets of practices, each comprising a “school” of representation and a “manner” of recovery. Navigating widely yet always relative to a conceptual lodestar of New Orleans exceptionalism, the thesis works not only to extensively map out practices of representing the city in Katrina culture, but also to establish recovering the victim as the fundamental impulse, and de facto governing project, of the cultural response to Hurricane Katrina.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2019