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The notion of "the South"--antebellum South or postbellum South--conjures up a whole range of responses, representations, and images. On the one hand, the South is always portrayed as romantic, old, gracious, or glamorous. Its "landmark" is a white column mansion set on a hill in a grove of oaks and hickories, ash and maples, surrounded by gardens full of roses, lilacs, magnolias, and honey suckle, with cotton plantations and servants' cabins in the background. On the mansion's porch sits a gentleman, behind him an angelic wife, both observing children playing. The second set of images associated with the South--centuries of economic and sexual exploitation, bloody struggle for racial desegregation, racism, and rigid system of race, gender, and class hierarchy challenges which usually did not end well--bears little resemblance to the idyllic picture described above calling attention to its violent, macho, racist, and backward side. As such, both descriptions introduce the notion of the U.S. South that, as the paradigm of patriarchal discourse, defined one's identity with the help of innumerous binaries setting the scene for what is called the Southern "domestic metaphor"--"the image of a beautifully articulated, patriarchal society in which every southerner, black or white, male or female, rich or poor, had an appropriate place and was happy in it" (Scott 52), and, as a consequence, put special emphasis on the doctrine of separate gender, class, and racial spheres to maintain its patriarchal hierarchy. The appropriateness of a person's role was a key concept that justified putting people "without voice," such as women, children, and African Americans, in their place: in stereotypes that were an awkward mixture of a person and his or her personification. Stereotyping in the American South was, to paraphrase Norbert Elias (1), a continuous process of learning submissive behavioral patterns that operated as the expression of both Southern regional awareness and Southern attitudes to racial, class, and gender hierarchies. In other words, Southern racial, gender, and class stereotypes rested on the idea of white masculine domination which was perceived as "normal," "natural," and "self-evident" because it was legitimized by the social order in, as Pierre Bourdieu points out, "the objectified state--in things [...] in the whole social world, and--in the embodied state--in the habitus of the agents, functioning as systems of schemes of perception, thought, and action" (8). In what follows, I will examine how the notions of sacred Southern womanhood are deconstructed and redefined in William Faulkner's Light in August (1932) to show that an analysis of it is important for understanding his Yokanaptawpha novels and short stories. Beginning with a description of the origin and purpose of Southern female stereotypes, I will point out that they, as the product of Southern patriarchal culture, existed to control gender, race, and class relations in the U.S. South. In the second section, I will discuss how the definitions of sacred Southern womanhood are renegotiated in the character of Joanna Burden. I will conclude by considering, in the light of possible objections, some consequences of my argument: Southern womanhood was founded on a canonized discourse, resting on a cultural and social personification--a description, a code, a stereotype. Although seen as legitimizing and authorizing, it, what is more important, challenged the Southern interpretation of whiteness and blackness, culture and nature, masculinity and femininity, superiority and inferiority, power and subordination providing insight "into anxieties and aspirations of the culture" (Roberts xii). The notion of Southern womanhood has also become a recurring motif in Southern fiction, in particular, in William Faulkner's oeuvre. The performance of the Southern womanhood in Light in August thus relies upon Joanna Burden's subversive penetration into Southern cultural and social

Professionnel et technique
22 septembre
Departments of English Language and Literature and American Culture and Literature, Ege University

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