All Y'All: Queering Southernness in Recent US Fiction
Siegrist, Heidi, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Greeson, Jennifer, English, University of Virginia
“All y’all” is redundant, but it describes a greater inclusiveness than “y’all” might accommodate. The South has long been considered the nation’s “queer” region; and yet it has also been considered a space inhospitable to queer life. Even so, popular interest in “the South” has long centered on ideas of otherness and backwardness; affective states of alienation and loss; and failure to adapt to, or refusal to participate in, the mainstream—the same preoccupations of major threads of queer theory. All Y’all explores this overlap, with the goal of reading “Southern” fiction of the last forty years in the light of queer theory’s ethical imperatives.
My project is in dialogue with the New Southern studies, which has taken critical aim at white “lost cause” nostalgia and usefully expanded the narrow canon of “Southern lit,” dismantles the fantasy of a singular, “authentic” U.S. South, and interrogates the role that “the South” plays in the wider American imagination. It’s a field that can dig down under popular narratives of the South, reckon with histories of racial trauma, and expand our perspective on spaces that make up what has too often been considered an isolated region. But although much recent scholarship has done important work in unmooring the South from stereotype and making it a more capacious term, it still retains a sense of spectacle in the cultural imagination. Although technological and geographical mobility has made the idea of the distinctive region increasingly distant from real experience, popular narratives still stress the way that ‘the South’ operates as a land apart.
My dissertation embraces this stubborn linkage between South/spectacle in order to read queer and Southern non-normativity together. As I argue, narratives of Southern deviance might be shaped to make room for more inclusive, even radical queer politics. The texts that I read are not “Southern” or “queer” by any single metric—rather, I explore a diverse selection of novels and story collections from the 1980s to the present in which narratives of Southern and queer deviance circulate and overlap self-consciously. Each chapter is organized around a keyword or idea at which Southernness and queerness meet: appetite, swampiness, melancholy, and monstrosity.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
queer , Southern, fiction, contemporary, narrative, Fannie Flagg, Randall Kenan, Dorothy Allison, Monique Truong, George Saunders, Poppy Z Brite, Jewelle Gomez
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