Feminist Re-Visioning And Women's Writing: The Second Wave's Effects On Katherine Anne Porter's Literary Legacy

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Title: Feminist Re-Visioning And Women's Writing: The Second Wave's Effects On Katherine Anne Porter's Literary Legacy
Author: Riney, Erin Kelly
Advisors: Lucinda MacKethan, Committee Member
Deborah Hooker, Committee Member
Michael Grimwood, Committee Chair
Abstract: Unquestionably, second-wave feminism's influence on American literature positively changed the canon by forcing the inclusion of women's expressions. As part of their efforts to counter networks of discrimination in common culture, second-wave feminists addressed literary representation to challenge institutional and informal reproduction of sexism. However, much like many feminists of color and third-wave feminists who questioned the negative effects of the second-wave feminists' unqualified power to define female voices in literature, so too does this thesis suggest that feminists of the 1970s, revisioning women's literature, may have inadvertently but unnecessarily stifled some female authors' contributions. Using Kate Chopin's fiction as a comparative lens, I examine why second-wave feminist scholars adopted some women's literature while displacing other talented women writer's works. Specifically, this thesis explores the reasons for which Katherine Anne Porter's works have not received the feminist consideration that Kate Chopin's have. I discuss the links between criticism of Porter's works and the influence of this critical attention on Porter's perceived incompatibility with feminist ideology and goals of the 1970s. Examining the authors' depictions of their female protagonists' perceptions of their sexuality, I provide explanations for feminists' adoption of Chopin as a representative of women's contributions to literature and their lack of recognition of Porter's merits. By examining a selection of each author's short stories, the form to which both authors dedicated their greatest efforts to refine as a craft. I trace the reception and popularity of Chopin's stories to the feminist movement's need for consciousness-raising literature, focusing on Chopin's portrayal of female sexuality in two of her most anthologized works, "Desirée's Baby" and "Athénäise." I then discuss the critical literature of three of Katherine Anne Porter's most anthologized and analyzed short stories—"Theft," "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," and "The Grave," provide interpretations of the works based on depictions of female sexuality, and suggest explanations for feminists' reluctance to adopt Porter's literature for their cause. By examining the reasons many feminists neglected to apply feminist literary criticism to Porter's works, modern feminist scholarship may progress to include more of the still unheard voices that are necessary for society's progress. While feminists' promotion of Chopin's works starting in the 1970s clearly benefited the movement, this thesis asserts that Porter's short stories offer much to contemporary women readers and perhaps more to today's feminist interests than Kate Chopin's works.
Date: 2007-08-03
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/258

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