Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in English



First Advisor

Deborah Barker

Second Advisor

Ted Ownby

Third Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Relational Format



In this project, I apply Judith Butler's late twentieth century theory of gender performance, outlined in her book Gender Trouble , to three major novels from William Faulkner's early career, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Sanctuary, and to one novel from his later period, Requiem for a Nun. This project examines the main female characters of these novels: Caddy Compson, Addie and Dewey Dell Bundren, Temple Drake, and Nancy Mannigoe, respectively, to reveal how race and class are indelible to the performance of gender in the literature of the early twentieth century South. The focus of this project will be to discover how the intelligibility of the femininity of these characters is affected when they disrupt the normative performance of their conventional gender roles, especially in maternal contexts. Chapter One lays the historical and theoretical groundwork for the novels discussed. Chapter Two considers Caddy Compson from The Sound and the Fury in the context of her performance as Southern Belle and how the influence of her brothers affects that role. Chapter Three addresses Addie and Dewey Dell Bundren from As I Lay Dying, focusing on how class differences affect their gender performances as rural women. Chapter Four deals with Temple Drake in Sanctuary and how she adapts her gender performance to survive the abuses to which she is subjected. Chapter Five examines the gender performances of both Temple (Drake) Stevens and Nancy Mannigoe regarding matters of race as they inform the intelligibility of the latter's normative femininity within the context of white elite society. Whereas Butler's theories tend to suggest constructive potential in the disruptions of normative gender performances, applying them to Faulkner's works, wherein social contexts often foreclose such opportunities, proves less optimistic. However, there is the possibility for the interruption of repetition with the daughters of the main female characters in the novels examined here.



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