“The Women, the Indomitable, the Undefeated”: The Mammy, the Belle, and Southern Memory in William Faulkner

Buzacott, Lucy (2016). “The Women, the Indomitable, the Undefeated”: The Mammy, the Belle, and Southern Memory in William Faulkner PhD Thesis, School of Communication and the Arts, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2016.159

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Author Buzacott, Lucy
Thesis Title “The Women, the Indomitable, the Undefeated”: The Mammy, the Belle, and Southern Memory in William Faulkner
School, Centre or Institute School of Communication and the Arts
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2016.159
Publication date 2016-03-13
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor David Carter
Hilary Emmett
Total pages 196
Language eng
Subjects 2005 Literary Studies
Formatted abstract
This thesis considers William Faulkner and Southern memory through the author’s representation of Southern femininity, both black and white, in the figures of the mammy and the Southern belle. It argues that the mammy and the belle not only coexist and interact in Faulkner’s work, but are structuring elements of the same Southern mythology. This thesis reads Faulkner’s women in conversation with the development of Lost Cause mythology, plantation and popular fiction, psychoanalytical accounts of racial difference, gender and race as performance, and Faulkner’s biography, and argues that doing so creates new spaces to develop the critical conversation around Faulkner’s female characters and, in turn, his fiction’s relationship to Southern memory, race, and gender.

This thesis explores the relationships that exist between women in two sets of paired texts—The Sound and the Fury and “That Evening Sun,” Sanctuary and Requiem for a Nun—along with the overtly masculine narrative of Absalom, Absalom!. It also considers what these relationships mean for masculinity and gender identity under the complex and dangerous racial conditions of the postbellum American South. Faulkner’s own relationship to Southern memory and memorialisation is also central to this thesis as it explores his personal and political investment in the mammy figure via his relationship with Caroline Barr and the representation of this relationship in the essay “Mississippi” and novel Go Down, Moses.

Drawing on the work of historians and theorists of memory and memorialisation, as well as the critical body of Faulkner studies, I argue that Faulkner’s texts reveal a conflicted relationship to Southern history and memory. Faulkner at once accepts and rejects the stories, characters, and myths of the Southern past in his body of work. So while the mammy and the Southern belle exist as stock characters in Lost Cause mythology, and superficially in Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha, at other significant moments these women unsettle, disrupt, or even revolutionise the Southern world. Reading moments in which women conform to the social, racial, and gendered boundaries of the Southern world and the moments in which they reject or disrupt these boundaries, reveals the South’s ongoing struggle to resolve its vexed history, the role of race and gender and the place of memory and memorialisation within it.
Keyword Faulkner, William, - 1897-1962 - Criticism and interpretation
American South
Southern belle

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Mon, 29 Feb 2016, 18:02:40 EST by Ms Lucy Buzacott on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)