Doctor of Philosophy
Literary and Cultural Studies
During the American Cold War period, a relatively small set of narratives were generated, disseminated, and rigidly enforced. These narratives included national unity, heteronormativity, and conformity. Yet in spite of insistent conformist pressures (and intimidating threats of blacklisting for failing to conform), Cold War-era Southern writers nevertheless flouted these national narratives by insistently foregrounding their own narratives, defending their own cultural and literary traditions, and generating a panoply of wonderfully--if surreptitiously--queer presences. In so doing, these writers at once successfully evinced surface obedience to Cold War sociocultural and political normative dictates while also offering subversive critiques of these same norms. This study examines representations of Southern queerness in selected texts from the Cold War era. It argues that even though American Cold War rhetoric, narratives, and ideology all conspired to successfully marginalize queers, the visibly queer presences in Southern writers' works during this period ensured that they would not be completely eradicated. Eudora Welty's novella The Ponder Heart begins this study's discussion by firmly situating Southern queerness in the Cold War-era South. An exploration of Robert Penn Warren's poem "The Ballad of Billie Potts" and the long "tale of verse and voices" Brother to Dragons, along with Tennessee Williams's short story "Desire and the Black Masseur" take up the problematic intersection of race and queerness. The study concludes with a "flipped paradigm" of queer characters whose real subversion comes from being outed as Southern in Patricia Highsmith's noi novel Strangers on a Train. Although there is certainly no shortage of textual explorations of Southern literature, there remains a relative paucity of queer approaches to these texts, and none that focus specifically on Southern texts published during the Cold War period from 1950-1955. This dissertation thus represents the first sustained study of how queerness was represented and negotiated in Cold War-era Southern texts.
Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.
Tipton, Nathan Glen, "Don't Ask, Do Tell: Queering the Cold War South" (2013). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 745.