Narrating choices: The significance of technique in the work of Sarah Orne Jewett, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston
John, Caresse A.
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The following study is a feminist standpoint theory analysis of the narrative techniques of Sarah Orne Jewett, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, and Zora Neale Hurston. Drawing upon concepts provided by standpoint theory as well as the social and cultural analyses of feminist literary theory, I isolate the role of narrative voice in these authors’ work, examining the ways in which these authors responded to their socio-political situations through narration. In each chapter, I use particular concepts from standpoint theory in order to delve into the connection between narrative choice and sociohistorical contexts. All four authors were making important and distinct stylistic choices in response to the literary movements in which they participated, as well as in response to their sociohistorical contexts. Sarah Orne Jewett was a white, financially stable author with close connections to male and female writers of her time; yet she was not wholly accepted into the male-dominated literary circles of New England. Willa Cather was a white lesbian, writing regionalist and modernist art in a time when literature and literary criticism were male- and heterosexual-dominated. Nella Larsen was a light-skinned black woman writing during the Harlem Renaissance, friends with both of the polemical figures of the period, Carl Van Vechten and W.E.B. Du Bois. And Zora Neale Hurston Hurston was a black author, Northern-educated, with a love for her childhood South and dependent on a white patron. In examining these contexts in relation to what these authors wrote about and how they wrote about it, I argue that we cannot separate the form of a text from the contexts of that text; contexts significantly affect not only what one writes, but how one writes it. My dissertation models the beneficial readings that a multi-theoretical approach affords and reveals the political significance of stylistic choices.