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Title: The changing representation of the poor white in southern literature : the Depression and beyond
Author: McKeown, Linda
ISNI:       0000 0004 2717 6671
Awarding Body: University of Ulster
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2011
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This dissertation charts the developing representation of the poor white figure in southern literature since the Depression of the 1930s, a decade that successfully raised the profile of the character to the national stage. The first four chapters of the work involve an analysis of how the poor white is used by three very different writers to chart the enormous social and economic upheaval of that time. Also included here is a chapter on documentary reportage which, as a relatively new media phenomenon, was to play a large part in exposing the very difficult lives of the rural, white, southern poor and in changing attitudes towards an underclass that was frequently derided and stereotyped as feckless, lazy and feeble-minded. The photographic images produced under its banner remain iconic today. As the influences of the Thirties fade, different responses to the role of poor whites are required and a central chapter then examines their fate in the post-war era when they would once again come to national attention against a background of racial bigotry, the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and a modernising and changing South. The second part of the dissertation revolves around contemporary representations of the character, both in fiction and in memoir. The memoirs of three writers from poor white southern backgrounds effectively symbolise a dividing line between past and present. All three mourn the passing of a particular way of life, while at the same time registering their anger at the suffering they and their families endured. The dreadful realities of southern rural poverty and the negative imagery associated with their people are nonetheless offset against the codes of honour that dominated their lives. Each man documents a peculiarly southern combination of violence and tenderness which also dominates the contemporary fiction, where writers both exploit and redeem those aspects of the stereotype in almost equal measure. De-construction and re-construction of the stereotype continues apace today, moving through the genre of 'Dirty Realism' to post-southern Post-modernism. The final chapter then investigates the work of Cormac McCarthy and his contribution to the on-going debate on the continued legitimacy of southern fiction, and, by implication, on the continued legitimacy of one of its most enduring literary stereotypes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available