The segregated town in mid-century southern fiction

Lennon, Gavan (2016) The segregated town in mid-century southern fiction. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis examines how southern novelists at mid-century used the fictional small town to critique racial segregation. Depictions of segregated towns across a selection of representative fictions share a typology of people and institutions – what I term offices – that combine to make these towns seem integral and functioning. In the segregated southern town, the community is contaminated by segregation and the paradoxes it engenders are revealed through the typology I uncover and explore in this thesis.

The racial landscape of Maxwell, Georgia in Lillian Smith’s Strange Fruit (1944) exposes how points of intersection in the town’s supposedly rigid racial geography highlight the weakness of segregated structural integrity. In The Hawk and the Sun (1955) Byron Herbert Reece examines the relationships of a farmer and a teacher with other offices, representatives of the bank and the church, in the Appalachian town of Tilden, Georgia. Carson McCullers set each of her novels in the town of Milan, Georgia but this consistency only becomes clear in Clock Without Hands (1961), in which she focuses on the roles a judge and a pharmacist play in defining the town’s collective identity. The courthouse square in William Faulkner’s Jefferson, Mississippi represents the identity of the town and, in The Reivers (1962), a narrator attempts to rewrite the history of the town by insinuating himself into Faulkner’s existing typology. In A Different Drummer (1962) William Melvin Kelley positions his imagined town of Sutton, in an unnamed southern state, at a moment of historic change and explores this change from the vantage point of the archetypal porch of a general store. This thesis contributes to a developing literary history of racial segregation by conducting detailed close textual analysis to argue that the ostensibly benign setting of the small town exposed the fallacies upon which the segregated South operated.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Monteith, S.J.
Thompson, G.W.
Keywords: South, Southern Studies, Fiction, Segregation, Race, Faulkner, McCullers, American Fiction.
Subjects: P Language and literature > PS American literature
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
Item ID: 33116
Depositing User: Lennon, Gavan
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 18:30

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