Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Panthea Reid Broughton
In this study, I analyze the modes of historical representation in works by Robert Penn Warren, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Ellen Douglas. In the chapter on All the King's Men, a novel that exemplifies the masculine historical perspective of traditional Southern literature, I show how Warren defines history as a process moving toward a predetermined end and then structures the narrative so that the women characters are constantly positioned outside that definition. In the second chapter, I begin with Eudora Welty's The Robber Bridegroom, examining the ways she alters the traditional story line of American history by drawing attention to alterity within that history. Then follows a reading of her autobiographical novel, The Optimist's Daughter, in which she foregrounds the fictive, constructed nature of history, this time focusing on personal rather than national history. Ellen Douglas, the next author studied here, uses radical narrative strategies to disrupt the masculine tradition of Southern literature, and her novel A Lifetime Burning exemplifies what I am calling a feminine Southern literature. Corinne, the narrator, struggles between deference to masculine narrative assumptions and her own, different impulses to subvert those assumptions. The text she finally authors articulates the repressed feminine voice so consistently silenced in masculine versions of history. William Faulkner also uses radical narrative strategies in Absalom, Absalom!, the final novel studied here; however, in spite of the novel's apparently nonlinear, polyvocal structure, its feminine voices are ultimately subsumed and silenced by the masculine voice of its author, who, like Warren, encodes a defensive patriarchal ideology in his fiction. Although throughout this study I point out differences between masculine and feminine forms of historicizing, I do not define these as absolutely antithetical categories but as concrete tendencies in the writing of Southern men and women. I do not exclude, for example, the possibility of feminine history in the writing of a man or masculine in the writing of a woman.
Wilson, Deborah, "Patterning the Past: History as Ideology in Modern Southern Fiction." (1991). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 5216.