|dc.description.abstract||This layered text examines how Southern women read Southern women as a practice of the self. Interviewing ten young white women who grew up in the Deep South, the author conducted a qualitative study to inquire into how the women employed texts by and about Southern women in the ongoing construction of their subjectivity. She applied Foucault’s analysis of care of the self to consider how participants, alumnae of her modern Southern literature course, used reading, writing, and relations as self-constitutive arts of existence.
Here, the author reviews the body of literature critiquing Southern women’s writing and regional constructs of female identity; summarizes Foucault’s work on the ancient Greek ethic of care of the self; and offers an overview of poststructural feminist epistemology and methodology, reviewing scholarship on feminist interviewing in depth. Layering participants’ spoken words throughout this text, along with their creative writing and her own, the author sets these alongside theoretical discussions of how they adopted textual practices to craft elaborations of subjectivity.
In reading and rereading, writing and talking about texts together, the young women, in a communal spirit, engaged guides for ethical living and self-examination as they tested their actions and beliefs and troubled representations of Southern womanhood. Through texts assigned for and inspired by the course, they resisted gendered identities reified by a patriarchal culture and deconstructed the tropes of the belle and the lady, assimilating fictional figures of the resistant mother, defiant daughter, and willful wife. Through their collaborative literary transactions, participants also re-imagined female power, rejected a duality attributed to Southern women, re-remembered personal relations, and reconstructed home place. This text explores how the women deployed Lee Smith’s (1988) Fair and Tender Ladies and Eudora Welty’s (1949/1977) The Golden Apples, particularly, in their self-formative practices.
Fostered by shared texts and enacted in a liminal female space on the porch, relations among these readers served as a dynamic site for their arts of existence. Skilled artisans of the self, they created, through books and the readerly sisterhood they cultivated, multifaceted and ethical ways of being in their world.||
|dc.subject||Southern women, Care of the self, Southern women’s writing, Subjectivity, Teaching literature, Foucault, Welty, Lee Smith, Poststructural feminism, Feminist interviewing, American South||