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Title: The second sex in the works of Nelson Algren
Author: Guilfoyle, Christine
ISNI:       0000 0004 5364 0191
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2014
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This is the first critical study in the history of Nelson Algren criticism and scholarship to focus on Algren’s representation(s) of women. The critical consensus is that his women are ‘sympathetically imagined’ yet Algren has a reputation for being ‘no feminist.’ In this thesis I unpack this dichotomy by performing radical re-readings of his four novels, Somebody in Boots (1935), Never Come Morning (1942), The Man with the Golden Arm (1949), and A Walk on the Wild Side (1956). In each case I demonstrate that these novels perform feminist and masculinity studies work in their documentation and problematisation of rape and prostitution. I also unpack the mythologisation of love in Algren’s work which is based on out-dated readings of his protagonists’ intimate relationships and on a too-close association of his life with his literature. As such, this thesis also foregrounds the role critical readings play in the construction of a writer’s reputation. The ‘second sex’ of the title signals a) the thesis’s focus on women and b) the personal connection between Algren and Simone de Beauvoir who met on the cusp of writing The Man with the Golden Arm and The Second Sex. Re-reading archival evidence, I argue that Algren’s reputation as ‘no feminist’ owes much to being cast as Beauvoir’s ‘macho’ lover in the mythology of their relationship. Putting Algren’s women at the centre of readings demonstrates that he brought an incisive awareness of gender issues to the table when he and Beauvoir met in 1947. Foregrounding the women in Algren’s work, the richness and sophistication of Algren’s writing comes more fully to light. This thesis aims to provide a clearer sense of Algren’s place in American literature and an assessment of his relevance to the international canon of work on human sexuality, prostitution, and rape.
Supervisor: Hanson, Sheila Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman ; PE English