Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

English Language and Literatures

Sub-Department

English

First Advisor

Robert Brinkmeyer

Second Advisor

Tara Powell

Abstract

This thesis will focus on Katherine Anne Porter's 'Noon Wine,' Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and Flannery O'Connor's 'The Displaced Person.' In each work, the author constructs dynamics between the native, white Southerner and the white foreigner (of Swedish, Grecian, and Polish descent, respectively). I propose that the Southerner's perception of the foreigner may be understood in terms of three criteria: the foreigner's physical appearance, the foreigner's ritualized behavior, and the communicative attempts of the foreigner. The Southerner's conception of these three characteristics allows him or her to view the foreigner abstractly; in the native white Southerner's mind, the foreigner, or 'outsider,' is only made safe after being filtered through his or her 'Southern' consciousness. In this act of projection, I argue, the foreigner becomes temporarily assimilated; however, upon the death of the foreigner, the Southerner is confronted with the traumatic realization that they have constructed the foreigner both as 'outsider' and assimilated neighbor.

While the authors of these texts, and the texts themselves, have been extensively considered by previous scholars, the three texts have rarely been put into conversation together; furthermore, when the works are discussed, they are largely studied for different purposes than those undertaken in this thesis. The American South has had a history of the fear of the Other, so rather than proposing any relationship between the characters and their historical time period, I consider how the foreigner is portrayed narratively. With this thesis, I hope to enter the existing discussion surrounding the native white Southerner's projection on the foreigner, but with an eye to the complex factors that allow for this projection; moreover, I stress that the native white Southerner denies the efficacy and autonomy of the foreigner's body as a means of suppressing his or her own Otherness. In my thesis, I hope to answer the following questions: to what extent is the relationship between the native white Southerner and the foreigner emblematic of the "bonds of whiteness"? When does mutual "whiteness" become a source of anxiety? How is the foreigner psychologically victimized and how is this projection harmful to both parties?

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