Guarding Whiteness: Disability, Eugenics, and Rhetorical Agency in Southern Renaissance Fiction
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This project explores fiction from white authors in the Southern Renaissance, specifically William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Carson McCullers. By examining their work alongside some of the performers that appeared historically in freak shows of the South, chapter one investigates how physically enfreaked individuals (usually phenotypically white) have access to power and the powers of whiteness. Chapter 2 interrogates how the South pathologizes promiscuity as mental illness with words such as moronic or feeble-mindedness, and the ramifications it has for the stratification on class divides among Southern elites and “White Trash.” The chapter seeks to answer the question of why, for a short period in the 1940s, white women were more likely to be punished with forced sterilization than Black women. Chapter 3 uncovers the rhetorical agency used by Benjy in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, looking at how he resists the powers of whiteness through crip time and his trauma responses to his family that seeks to reinsert the Antebellum South.
Using an intersectional approach of critical whiteness studies, disability studies, crip theory, and queer theory, relies on a variety of scholars including, but not limited to; David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, Rosemarie Garland-Thompson, Richard Dyer, Matt Wray, Jasbir Puar, Ellen Samuels, and Allison Kafer. The primary works examined include promotional materials of historical freaks, McCullers’ The Ballad of a Sad Café, William Faulkner’s The Hamlet and The Sound and the Fury, and Flannery O’Connor short stories “Good Country People” and “A Temple of the Holy Ghost.”