Beauty, Femininity, and Gothic Monstrosity in Select Fiction by Joyce Carol Oates, Ramona Lofton, and Lois-Ann Yamanaka

Ghosal, N (2014) Beauty, Femininity, and Gothic Monstrosity in Select Fiction by Joyce Carol Oates, Ramona Lofton, and Lois-Ann Yamanaka. Masters thesis, Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad.

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The present study examines the normative and repressive cultural discourses on beauty and femininity and their effects on women’s psyche with the help of select works of contemporary American fiction. It seeks to establish that the violence and oppression resulting from hegemonic discourses on feminine beauty attain Gothic characteristics, in that they produce horrific effects on the minds and bodies of women. In order to establish how Gothic horror is a ubiquitous presence in the lives women who are in thrall to the beauty myth, this study takes into consideration select works of fiction by contemporary American women writers which narrate the experiences of women across various classes and ethnicities. Accordingly, it begins with an analysis of the violence inherent in the beauty myth, as espoused by third wave feminists like Naomi Wolf, Susan Bordo, and Susan Faludi; and with the help of contemporary Gothic theories seeks to demonstrate how the myth gives rise to the self-loathing, obsession, and violence that often borders on the uncanny. The study examines these postulations through the works of American women writers such as Joyce Carol Oates’s My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampike (2008) that portrays white American women’s enslavement to the beauty myth. It then explores the writings of African American women novelists and offers a close reading of Ramona Lofton aka Sapphire’s Push (1996) to establish how the beauty myth acts as a double-bind in the lives of black women who very often suffer psychic and physical violence and are socially ostracized due to the natural physical characteristics of their race. The study finally examines the trappings of the beauty myth and the violence of assimilation in the lives of American women belonging to other ethnicities such as Japanese, Indian, and Mexican and presents a detailed analysis of Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers (1996) which depicts how colored women struggle to live upto America’s dominant cultural discourses on beauty and femininity. In conclusion, the study, through an analysis of American women’s repression under the nation’s capitalistic and patriarchal discourses on ideals of womanhood and beauty, seeks to establish how the lives of such women are subject to Gothic violence and horror.

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IITH Creators:
IITH CreatorsORCiD
Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Women's psyche, Gothic, American fiction; TD160
Subjects: Arts > Liberal arts
Literature > American literature in English
Divisions: Department of Liberal Arts
Depositing User: Users 4 not found.
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2014 08:25
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2019 09:13
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