Date of Award

4-29-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Veronica Watson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mike Sell, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Todd Thompson, Ph.D.

Abstract

In this study I argued the necessity of including African American writers into Southern literature to enhance our understanding of white identity in 20th-century literature. Though my project is the expansion of the prevalent trend in Southern literary studies, it shows important, new reasons for the necessity. By examining whiteness in twentieth-century Southern literature, using critical whiteness theories, and insisting on the inclusion of white-life fiction, I demonstrate the imperative of including African American literature to gain a clearer understanding of whiteness. In addition, my project sheds light on four thematic areas that are important in exploring white identity: Southern womanhood, space, biracial identity, and class. By comparing black writers' works with those of white writers' in terms of four thematic aspects, I demonstrate that African American writers offer keen insights into whiteness that white writers fail to show. To this end, I compare the portrayal of biracial identity in William Faulkner's "Light in August" with that in Charles Chesnutt's "The House behind the Cedars" in Chapter 2; I also compare the portrayal of white womanhood's interrelation with race and class in Tennessee Williams's "A Streetcar Named Desire" with that in Zora Neale Hurston's "Seraph on the Suwanee" in Chapter 3. For the framework of my study, I employ a few critical whiteness theories such as Toni Morrison; Owen J. Dwyer and John Paul Jones; David Roediger; and Tim Cresswell.

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