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Title: City, suburban and pastoral spaces and the formation of identity in Cold War America (1945-1965)
Author: Mackay, Antonia Alexandra
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis focuses on the culture and literature of Cold War America and seeks to challenge accepted notions and assumptions about this era and its culture, pointing ultimately to the possibilities for transgression or escape from enforced homogeneity. Using feminist theories, urban theory, and a cultural materialist approach, this thesis employs the work of Judith Butler (1993, 1999), Elizabeth Grosz (1994, 1995, 2001, 2008) and Beatriz Colomina (1992, 2004), and draws on the ideas of Gilles Deleuze, to undertake an examination of subjectivity and its relation to built and landscape environments of the Cold War, enabling an investigation that includes literary texts and criticism, visual and media culture, and cultural, architectural and technological discourses. This study of identity examines the way in which bodies react to and are shaped by their surroundings engaging with sights (Disneyland, The Monsanto House of the Future & the Playboy Mansion), places (New York City, Southern American states and suburbia) texts, and objects (television & cook books). Racial, sexual and youth identities are examined in chapter one, through the street spaces of Ralph Ellisonʼs Invisible Man (1952), the works of the Beats, Hubert Selby Jrʼs Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964), and Salingerʼs The Catcher in the Rye (1951) illustrating how street identities manage to complicate the purported containment of the era, and blurring the distinction between public display and private spectacle where transgressive personae can find authenticity of selfhood from within their urban location. Chapter two considers suburban gender identities and their manufactured proscription through architecture and technology as presented in Richard Yatesʼ Revolutionary Road (1961), John Cheeverʼs short stories, Vladimir Nabakovʼs Lolita (1958), John Updikeʼs Rabbit, Run (1960) and Sloan Wilsonʼs The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955), each examined in order to question containment, surveillance and gender proscription in this space. Finally, I examine the tensions between traditionally conformist selves and racial and sexual Others in the landscapes of Southern states, in the works of Tennessee Williamsʼ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1948) and Flannery OʼConnorʼs Wise Blood (1952). Using imagined spaces and landscapes this section considers a different form of spatially-determined identity, identity formed in an essentially hyperreal space – and exposes the contradictions of conformity and transgression. This thesisʼ original contribution to knowledge is based in the application of a theoretical feminist framework to established Cold War cultural criticism. In bridging the gap between existing theories of feminist corporeality and cultural criticism, my work will extend and challenge accepted notions of Fifties conformity and homogeneity in new and dynamic ways.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available