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Love In Literature: The Construction Of Female Romantic Identity In America
Hartzell, Haley Jane
viii, 80 pages
This thesis will consider the ways in which female readers are alienated from a number of classic texts that are taught frequently in American high schools and universities, and will analyze the reason for this separation between female readers and the text. Using Judith Fetterley's The Resisting Reader as a foundation, I will argue that this division still exists and the reason for this inherent separation is the way women are presented romantically within these texts. Through a feminist psychosocial perspective and a detailed textual analysis of The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, Little Women, and Pride and Prejudice, I will interrogate the aesthetics of love, different behavioral patterns associated with women in love, and the connections between sexual viability and desirability that inform romantic love. In these texts, women in love are often presented as dependent, pathetic, overly emotional, and weak, even if their behavior is significantly different when they are not within a romantic relationship, which forces female readers to either identify with the subordinated women in these texts or to identify as male. I will argue that these texts contain significant merit and should continue to be taught in schools, but that they need to be critically analyzed in order to avoid negatively influencing the romantic identity formation of adolescent female readers. I will utilize psychological studies to assert that by having young women read texts that show outdated forms of romantic love, female readers run the risk of internalizing the images they are reading and using them as a standard for behavior in love. In American culture and literature, women in love are stereotypically conceived and shown to be "correct" in love only when they embody the aesthetics and modes of behavior approved by patriarchal society. These representations do not display the complexities of actual women in love; instead, they reaffirm the stereotypes they portray. These stereotypes are embedded within American culture and literature and act as a socializing force on women, pressuring them to conform to socially enforced standards of behavior and aesthetics. However, these stereotypes are arbitrary constructions and unrepresentative of the complexities of real women. By exposing the falsehood of these stereotypes, I hope to display how behaviorally limiting the representations of women are within these texts in order to show how damaging these depictions can be. In order for women to be considered equals within society, they must stop being considered subordinates within love. The first step in that process is exposing how problematic the ideological beliefs that underlie these depictions are in order to demonstrate why change is necessary.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 78-80).
English and Comparative Literature
Arts and Letters
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2015
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