Strange Bodies: Gender and Identity in the Novels of Carson McCullers

Strange Bodies: Gender and Identity in the Novels of Carson McCullers

by Sarah Gleeson-White
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Adapts Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the grotesque, as well as the latest in gender and psychoanalytic theory, to the major works of acclaimed southern writer Carson McCullers.

This innovative reconsideration of the themes of Carson McCullers's fiction argues that her work has heretofore suffered under the pall of narrow gothic interpretations, obscuring a more

See more details below

Overview

Adapts Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the grotesque, as well as the latest in gender and psychoanalytic theory, to the major works of acclaimed southern writer Carson McCullers.

This innovative reconsideration of the themes of Carson McCullers's fiction argues that her work has heretofore suffered under the pall of narrow gothic interpretations, obscuring a more subversive agenda. By examining McCullers’s major novels—The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Member of the Wedding, and The Ballad of the Sad Café—Gleeson-White locates a radical and specific form of the grotesque in the author's fiction: the liberating and redemptive possibilities of errant gender roles and shifting sexuality. She does this by employing Bakhtin's theory of the grotesque, which is both affirming and revolutionary, and thereby moves McCullers's texts beyond the 'gloom and doom' with which they have been charged for over fifty years.

The first chapter explores female adolescence by focusing on McCullers's tomboys in the context of oppressive southern womanhood. The second chapter analyzes McCullers's fascinating struggle to depict homosexual desire outside of traditional stereotypes. Gleeson-White then examines McCullers's portrayals of feminine and masculine gender through the tropes of cross-dressing, transvestism, and masquerade. The final chapter takes issue with earlier readings of androgyny in the texts to suggest a more useful concept McCullers herself called "the hybrid." Underpinning the whole study is the idea of a provocative, dynamic form of the grotesque that challenges traditional categories of normal and abnormal.

Because the characters and themes of McCullers's fiction were created in the 1940s and 1950s, a time of tension between the changing status of women and the southern ideal of womanhood, they are particularly fertile ground for a modern reexamination of this nature. Gleeson-White's study will be valued by scholars of American literature and gender and queer studies, by students of psychology, by academic libraries, and by readers of Carson McCullers. Strange Bodies is a thoughtful, highly credible analysis that adds dimension to the study of southern literature.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

“It may be that Sara Gleeson-White has rescued McCullers from the dogging image of a brilliant prodigy whose invalidism and self-absorption led to a fixation with the pain of human existence. Gleeson-White doesn't deny the pain, but she does reconfigure it by linking McCullers's texts not to the great Russians that she so loved—Tolstoy and Dostoevsky—but to the work of another Russian writer, Mikhail Bakhtin. . . . Gleeson-White's conclusion is a welcomed one. It is also about twenty-five years overdue.”—Modern Fiction Studies

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

“The sexually complicated characters who began appearing in Carson McCullers’ fiction in 1940 might have been made to order for gender critics, but Gleeson-White is the first to give them the full gender-studies treatment.”—CHOICE

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

“[Gleeson-White] has used the four core novels . . . for a stimulating interpretation of their restive anxiety at the formation of identity.”—ForeWord Magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780817357214
Publisher:
University of Alabama Press
Publication date:
06/15/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >