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QUEERING THE NARRATIVE: TRAUMA AND HEALING IN JAMES BALDWIN’S GIOVANNI’S ROOM AND ALISON BECHDEL’S FUN HOME

Graham, Melanie Elizabeth (2016) QUEERING THE NARRATIVE: TRAUMA AND HEALING IN JAMES BALDWIN’S GIOVANNI’S ROOM AND ALISON BECHDEL’S FUN HOME. Masters thesis, Radford University.

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Abstract

The word “trauma” is used to describe situations that are emotionally painful, disturbing, and that often overwhelm people’s ability to cope, leaving them powerless. Trauma Studies began focusing on war and genocide, occurrences considered “outside the range of normal.” More recently, it has grown to include the everyday, more hidden, private experiences that are consequences of oppressive social constructions. Specifically, Laura Brown’s concept of “insidious trauma” illuminates society’s institutions and systems that perpetuate oppression. This thesis explores how two modern texts represent homophobia, heterosexism, and heteronormativity as causes of psychic trauma in the lives of individuals; it further suggests that giving narrative form to trauma allows for a kind of healing from the psychic damage done by discrimination and oppression that social institutions and ideologies produce. The first chapter examines James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and its representation of the damaging effects of homophobia; it argues that Baldwin challenges the established gender roles and accepted sexuality of 1950s America while affording the protagonist, David, the potential to heal. The second chapter explores Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and its examination of both the historical oppression and liberation of homosexuals. It argues that Bechdel challenges cultural and sexual hegemony and exposes the generational differences between father and daughter who both grapple with their same-sex desire. The chapter concludes with analysis of the social shift in sexual subjectivities evident in the father’s, Bruce’s, succumbing to his trauma while his daughter, Alison, heals. Ultimately, through its use of trauma theory and the application of “insidious trauma” to the above mentioned texts, this thesis expands recognition and respect for individuals who have suffered from sexual discrimination.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Radford University > College of Graduate and Professional Studies
Depositing User: Melanie Elizabeth Graham
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2016 12:37
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2016 12:37
URI: http://wagner.radford.edu/id/eprint/259

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