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Wednesday, April 26 • 9:00am - 9:20am
Trash Rises: Finding Beauty Growing Up As White Trash

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My research demonstrates that the novel Bastard out of Carolina is a novel of formation, i.e. Bildungsroman. I will argue that the novel’s concepts of aesthetic beauty inform the development of the main character, Bone, as she comes of age. Many scholars who write on this novel focus on the themes of illegitimacy, shame, stereotypes of poor whites, and sexual violence. My thesis adds a different nuance to the conversations around the novel, showing how aesthetic beauty informs a young girl’s coming of age story and creating a new thread of thought to add to the existing discourse that is currently being weaved. Bastard out of Carolina tells a story stained with the misery and depravity that follows poverty, abuse, and shame. The darkness and despair of the novel is interspersed with images of hope, familial love, and resilience that serve to combat the desolate setting of the novel. Bone’s perseverance and ultimate survival depend in many ways on her growing sensibilities surrounding her place in the world, sensibilities informed in part through her developing understanding of beauty. As a literary genre, the Bildungsroman explicates the lives of individuals who are coming of age and entering society. However, as a genre it is male centric and has a contested critical tradition. Bastard out of Carolina stretches the bounds of the genre and helps readers reexamine the genre. In the world of the novel certain forms of beauty are privileged while others are marginalized. Bone is shown by society what beauty is deemed to be, but finds beauty in marginalized forms. Her sense of beauty, and her sense of self, is informed by society but is reshaped as she re-examines and re-conceptualizes beauty.


Wednesday April 26, 2017 9:00am - 9:20am
232 Karpen Hall

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