Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Literary and Cultural Studies

Committee Chair

Carey James Mickalites

Committee Member

Cary Holladay

Committee Member

Kathy Lou Schultz


Using a range of nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century texts to track the peculiar failures and ambiguous successes of white-authored black characters, the study defines southern carnivalesque's problematic relationship with forms of black laughter and popular media images. The project demarcates southern carnivalesque's development in relationship to cultural indices, and finds William Faulkner at the center of the aesthetic that creates so much controversy. Staging performances of blacknes that function between Mark Twain's and Ralph Ellison's, Faulkner shifts the paradigm of Southern humor, as Mardi Gras inspired his shift. Acrid laughter from Faulkner's black characters acts as a disruptive sound of blackness asserting an identity resistant to cultural domination -- just as King Zulu's laughter. I expose Mardi Gras' influence on Faulkner, which reconfigures his works as southern carnivalesque, circum-Atlantic performances that forget nothing. The argument asserts that southern literature uses southern carnivalesque as a means to couple the comic with crises. The coupling presents a spectacle that returns a grotesque reflection of cultural ideologies that haunt readers with memories of regional traumas. In short, my new interpretation of Faulkner's works as a Mardi Gras masquerade forms the center of my argument, and it mediates between the history of African American humor and white writers.The illumination highlights the culturally transformative force of black laughter and its troubled literary relationship to the South's missed opportunties to achieve American ideals of equality.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.