Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The ubiquity of ugly female characters in the work of southern women calls into question what W. J. Cash termed “gyneolatry,” the worship of the beautiful white woman upon which so much of southern ideology has been based. If the South functions as an internal other for the nation, then examining this fiction’s multiplicity of ugly women illuminates the ways in which women defy not only the norms of southern gender but also those of the larger American culture, in which the southern woman often acts as a representation of the South in general. By considering ugliness as a category separate from others with which it has heretofore been conflated, my project illuminates the ways in which characters who fail to live up to the rigid expectations of their gender reveal the productive potential of such failure. Though Flannery O’Connor wrote that southern literature is rife with freaks because only southerners were able to recognize the freakish, I maintain that writers such as O’Connor created so many ugly women as their own way of “being ugly.” These authors utilize the “ugly plot” instead of the expected courtship or marriage plots to imagine alternative futures for southern women who fall out of the marriage market. As American culture often relies upon regionalism in order to bolster national identity, viewing the southern novel through the lens of the ugly plot reveals that texts written by southern women not only speak back to southern ideologies, but call into question national paradigms of femininity.
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Miller, Monica C., "Lopsided, Scarred, and Squint-Eyed: Ugly Women in the Work of Southern Women Writers" (2014). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 896.