Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Annette Trefzer

Second Advisor

Jay Watson

Third Advisor

Deborah Barker

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the thematic role of families and the familial in the literature of the Southern Renaissance. Whereas a number of scholars have come at this matter from a strictly cultural perspective, this analysis utilizes an economic framework. Following the example set by Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Gilles Deleuze, and Felix Guattari, I attempt to formulate an understanding of the southern family not as an independent and singular social organism, but, rather, as a mechanism for the distribution of capital, firmly embedded within modern capitalism's expansive network of production, consumption, and exchange. My argument is that the ruptures and various points of tension that typify so many of the southern literary families encountered during this time period indicate not so much the degradation of an older social order, as has often been suggested, but, instead, the proper functioning of a fundamentally economic device. In order to make this case, I examine two of the key texts from the Southern Renaissance: William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (1929) and Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding (1946). Both novels are preeminently concerned with the breakdown of families that appear to embody the "Old South" ideal. Moreover, both novels repeatedly frame these breakdowns within the context of contemporary economic concerns. Employing the work of historians such as Gavin Wright, Grace Elizabeth Hale, and C. Vann Woodward, I argue that this pattern of familial dissolution indicates the manner in which such families function as extensions of the operational logic that characterized the New South economy, engendering those repeating cycles of destruction upon which modern capitalism relies.

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