Carson McCullers About Racism

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As a writer of the late modern period, Carson McCullers’ legacy and influence continue into the postmodern age and the critical perspectives of analyzing her theme of spiritual isolation have shifted from realism to modernism, then to postmodernism: realistic scholars often read McCullers through the lenses of autobiography, southern regionalism, the Gothic tradition, or interwar social background; modern critics dig into the writer’s desire to seek meaning in an impersonal society, applying theoretical, objective and analytical approaches, such as feminist and gender criticism, Marxist criticism and psychoanalysis; literary criticism in the postmodern era, with a tendency of combining various approaches in the light of the anti-foundational streams, has provided new insight into the study of McCullers: post-colonial feminism, New Historicism, hermeneutics, queer theory, Postwar narrative, etc.

Though most of the previous and present critics attribute people’s spiritual isolation to the experience of social injustice, they usually apply a single-axis framework in dealing with social issues in McCullers’ works, paying inadequate attention to the overlapping and multiple forms of oppression.

What new insights and approaches will this research bring to the McCullers study? To answer this question, this dissertation will bring the intersectional perspective to the forefront, combined with approaches as postcolonial feminism, Foucault’s power theory, Lacanian psychoanalysis and Marxist theory, examining power relations and multiple identities of the characters in consideration of the intersections in social issues, such as racism, sexism, patriarchy, classism and heterosexism in the 1930s’ America.

When it comes to the intersectional study of Carson McCullers, more and more scholars have started to work at it since the term “intersectionality” was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Intersecting relation between race and gender, especially the experience of African American women, is the most frequently discussed topic.

For example, Constante Gonzalez Grobas in his essay “Carson McCullers and the Racial Problem” probes into McCullers’ way of connecting “racial oppression with gender oppression in the context of the prejudice of the reactionary South of the 1940s” , and discusses how she tries to “link the failed desire for gender fluidity with a similarly failed desire for racial hybridity” in The Member of the Wedding (63).

In his another essay “Carson McCullers and Lillian Smith: The Intersections of Gender and Race in the Jim Crow South”, he proceeds to illustrate that “just as ‘blackness’ and ‘whiteness’ can coexist within individuals of both races, so too can femininity and masculinity be found equally within men and women.”(124) Speaking of “whiteness”, Cynthia Wu explores how McCullers reveals the ethnic discrimination among whites by creating the “eastern European Jewish men” who “do not occupy a comfortable space in whiteness or in patriarchy” and the Nordic woman who “challenges the South’s ideals of white sexual propriety.”(54)

Wu highlights McCullers’ re-conceptualization of “whiteness” by examining the ethnic difference in her stories, which, I think, is a singular focus on one identity. In my proposed research, I will investigate the identity of Jews, as well as that of other oppressed groups, with more evidence for the systematical unequal treatment based on gender, race, class, sexuality and ethnic origin

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Carson McCullers About Racism. (2020, Sep 07). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/carson-mccullers-about-racism/

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