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White self-loathing : masochistic sexuality and race in the works of Jane Bowles and Carson McCullers

Author: Alison Umminger; Indiana University, Bloomington.
Dissertation: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Indiana University, Dept. of English, 2004.
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Document : Thesis/dissertation : eBook   Computer File : EnglishView all editions and formats
Publication:Dissertation Abstracts International, 66-01A.
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
This dissertation investigates the masochistic self-loathing of white characters who feel trapped by prescriptive sex, gender, and racial identities. I look at masochism as a pathology rooted not only in psycho-sexual or familial models, as Freud suggested, but as a disorder which also stems from larger cultural injustice and trauma. The masochism manifest in writings by Jane Bowles and Carson McCullers has a  Read more...
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Additional Physical Format: Print version:
Umminger, Alison.
White self-loathing.
(OCoLC)276987387
Named Person: Jane Bowles; Carson McCullers
Material Type: Document, Thesis/dissertation, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File
All Authors / Contributors: Alison Umminger; Indiana University, Bloomington.
ISBN: 0496959468 9780496959464
OCLC Number: 72673029
Notes: Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 66-01, Section: A, page: 0177.
Chair: Susan Gubar.
Title from PDF t.p. (viewed Oct. 12, 2006).
Description: vii, 203 p. : digital, PDF file.
Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Other Titles: White self loathing
Responsibility: Alison Umminger.

Abstract:

This dissertation investigates the masochistic self-loathing of white characters who feel trapped by prescriptive sex, gender, and racial identities. I look at masochism as a pathology rooted not only in psycho-sexual or familial models, as Freud suggested, but as a disorder which also stems from larger cultural injustice and trauma. The masochism manifest in writings by Jane Bowles and Carson McCullers has a decidedly racial and social dimension. I examine Carson McCullers's novels The Member of the Wedding, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and Clock Without Hands and Jane Bowles's novel Two Serious Ladies, along with her letters and the short story "Camp Cataract." Masochism, rather than being a hindrance to well-adjusted adulthood, becomes instead a performance that commands attention in these texts. It desecrates the bodies upon which it is performed, troubles the "purity" of the characters' whiteness, and highlights the refusal of white characters to be integrated into the narrative that Freud poses, or into the racially segregated and prejudiced society that "whiteness" upholds. The purpose is not to valorize masochism as such, but rather to pose an alternate reading of masochistic behavior that integrates a disaffection with racial inequality in white women extending beyond the personal/familial. Much of the work on the role of white women focuses on constructions of the "Southern Lady" or on her role as symbolic (and often passive) bastion of racial purity. This dissertation complicates these readings, looking instead at white women as active agents, sometimes working for change, sometimes working to secure their own racial entitlement. Although many of the white characters in these novels initially resist their integration into racist social structure, the majority ultimately capitulate and abandon their more transgressive identities. These unsettling portraits of deferrals to homophobic and racist systems of power illuminate a troubling strain of thought, useful in mapping the setbacks as well as the progress made in feminist and civil rights consciousness throughout the 20th century.

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