Title page for ETD etd-04212010-135523

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Kayser, Casey
URN etd-04212010-135523
Title Writing About the South "In Her Own Way": Gender and Region in the Work of Southern Women Playwrights
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Demastes, William W. Committee Co-Chair
Moreland, Richard Committee Co-Chair
Costello, Brannon Committee Member
Ware, Carolyn Committee Member
Sosnowsky, Kristin Dean's Representative
  • women writers
  • southern studies
  • feminist drama
Date of Defense 2010-04-12
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation examines how identity—gender, race, sexuality, regional affiliation—intersects with considerations of the dramatic genre, commercial and critical factors in the American theatre, and understandings about the American South to complicate how contemporary southern women playwrights represent region. In light of the always-already "performative" nature of the South, and geographical, commercial, and ideological factors that set the South in opposition to the North, southern women playwrights face additional difficulties in navigating issues of authenticity and simulacra, the universal versus the specific, ideas about southern "backwardness" versus northern sophistication, and audience participation in fetishizing or distancing the South. Using drama as their medium creates unique problems—for instance, the multiple layers of authorship, the collective reception format, and the demand for exaggeration within production—but it also provides opportunities for southern women playwrights to challenge conventional ideas not only about the South, but also about the assumed universal spectator, who has always been figured as male/white/heterosexual/middle-class, and I argue—not southern. Reading the work of playwrights such as Pearl Cleage, Sandra Deer, Rebecca Gilman, Marsha Norman, and Shay Youngblood, I argue that these women draw on several strategies to respond to these problems of region and genre. Through conscious approaches that involve placing, displacing, and replacing the South, and by foregrounding their challenges to traditional southern notions of gender expression and sexuality, community, and domesticity, these women use the stage to reimagine the South and the dramatic genre.
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