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Strange Bodies, Strange Bodies, 0817312676, 0-8173-1267-6, 978-0-8173-1267-1, 9780817312671, , , Strange Bodies, 081738281X, 0-8173-8281-X, 978-0-8173-8281-0, 9780817382810, , , Strange Bodies, 0817357211, 0-8173-5721-1, 978-0-8173-5721-4, 9780817357214,

Strange Bodies
Gender and Identity in the Novels of Carson McCullers
Sarah Gleeson-White

2003. 176 pp.
Price:  $34.95 s
E Book
2009. 176 pp.
Price:  $24.95 d
Quality Paper
2012. 176 pp.
Price:  $24.95 s

Adapts Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the grotesque, as well as the latest in gender and psychoanalytic theory, to the major works of acclaimed southern writer Carson McCullers.

This innovative reconsideration of the themes of Carson McCullers's fiction argues that her work has heretofore suffered under the pall of narrow gothic interpretations, obscuring a more subversive agenda. By examining McCullers’s major novels—The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Member of the Wedding, and The Ballad of the Sad Café—Gleeson-White locates a radical and specific form of the grotesque in the author's fiction: the liberating and redemptive possibilities of errant gender roles and shifting sexuality. She does this by employing Bakhtin's theory of the grotesque, which is both affirming and revolutionary, and thereby moves McCullers's texts beyond the 'gloom and doom' with which they have been charged for over fifty years.

The first chapter explores female adolescence by focusing on McCullers's tomboys in the context of oppressive southern womanhood. The second chapter analyzes McCullers's fascinating struggle to depict homosexual desire outside of traditional stereotypes. Gleeson-White then examines McCullers's portrayals of feminine and masculine gender through the tropes of cross-dressing, transvestism, and masquerade. The final chapter takes issue with earlier readings of androgyny in the texts to suggest a more useful concept McCullers herself called "the hybrid." Underpinning the whole study is the idea of a provocative, dynamic form of the grotesque that challenges traditional categories of normal and abnormal.

Because the characters and themes of McCullers's fiction were created in the 1940s and 1950s, a time of tension between the changing status of women and the southern ideal of womanhood, they are particularly fertile ground for a modern reexamination of this nature. Gleeson-White's study will be valued by scholars of American literature and gender and queer studies, by students of psychology, by academic libraries, and by readers of Carson McCullers. Strange Bodies is a thoughtful, highly credible analysis that adds dimension to the study of southern literature.

Sarah Gleeson-White is Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney.

“It may be that Sara Gleeson-White has rescued McCullers from the dogging image of a brilliant prodigy whose invalidism and self-absorption led to a fixation with the pain of human existence. Gleeson-White doesn't deny the pain, but she does reconfigure it by linking McCullers's texts not to the great Russians that she so loved—Tolstoy and Dostoevsky—but to the work of another Russian writer, Mikhail Bakhtin. . . . Gleeson-White's conclusion is a welcomed one. It is also about twenty-five years overdue.”—Modern Fiction Studies

“The sexually complicated characters who began appearing in Carson McCullers’ fiction in 1940 might have been made to order for gender critics, but Gleeson-White is the first to give them the full gender-studies treatment.”—CHOICE

“[Gleeson-White] has used the four core novels . . . for a stimulating interpretation of their restive anxiety at the formation of identity.”—ForeWord Magazine

"Gleeson-White does an excellent job of illustrating the loopholes and indirections through which the lives of McCullers's characters point the way to emancipation. . . . She makes a strong case for renewed appreciation of McCullers's importance, her complexity, and her artistry."
—Marshall Bruce Gentry, author of Flannery O'Connor's Religion of the Grotesque

"Gleeson-White responds to McCullers's texts thoughtfully and imaginatively. There are no "stretches" here, no attempts to impose interpretations on the texts themselves."
—Alice Hall Petry, author of Understanding Anne Tyler

“Strange Bodies should prompt readers to return to the writings of the extraordinary and often overlooked McCullars. Gleeson-White’s use of Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s strikingly androgynous 1940 photograph of McCullers on the book’s cover prepares readers to question preconceptions regarding gender and fixed identities.”—Mississippi Quarterly

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