Date of Award
M.A. in English
This thesis portfolio explores how three southern authors used fiction to push back against social norms. The literary works of Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty depict the ways in which marginalized bodies are socially regulated and punished. By using Michel Foucault’s theories about power and knowledge, I explore how each of these works uses surveillance to regulate social behavior and what happens to marginalized bodies that refuse to conform to the norm. In Chesnutt’s novel The Marrow of Tradition, Dr. Miller uses his “medical gaze” to diagnose problems within the black community while also elevating himself above his community. In Faulkner’s novella “Old Man,” the Tall Convict desperately desires to return to Parchman Prison because he has absorbed the effects of panoptic surveillance of prison. In Welty’s short story “June Recital,” female sexual awakening is inextricably linked to the judgmental and regulatory “social gaze” of the ladies in the community, as well as the threatening and possessive male gaze. Through each work, we see the effects of surveillance and the threat of institutionalization on marginalized bodies.
Ayers, Michelle Lynn, "We know where you belong at: Institutions and Marginalized Bodies in the Literature of Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1562.