College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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absalom, Rosa Coldfield, Faulkner, feminism, hysteria


Within the context of the female gothic genre, Rosa’s hysteric personality allows her voice to control aspects of the story and the narrative that would be limited to her as just a peripheral character, the spinster aunt. The first section of this essay, “Absalom, Absalom! as Rosa’s Text,” argues that Rosa is a marginalized and hysteric character in the eyes of her community and her fellow narrators. Rosa’s narrative of Thomas Sutpen is surrounded by narratives of Mr. Compson, Quentin, Shreve and a third person narrator. Rosa’s position as an old maid, paradoxically, validates her position as storyteller and provides her with an audience. The next section, “Absalom, Absalom! as Female Gothic Text,” sets Rosa up as a gothic heroine in the context of the female gothic. By analyzing Faulkner’s chapters narrated by Rosa as a female gothic novel, I argue that Rosa’s position as a character and a narrator creates a paradoxical empowerment for her. Rosa’s empowerment is derived from her passive-aggressive actions and words. By establishing Rosa’s awareness of her marginalized position, her behavior and narration can be read as a performative role she plays in order to enact her desires. The third section, “Hysteria: An Empowering Identity,” examines Rosa as a culturally created hysteric and the implications of this role on her identity. Like her marginalized position, Rosa’s hysteria breaks down the social expectations of her and her own repressed identity. Though critically argued as a “mad” character, Rosa uses her hysteria to bind together that which was divided by hysteria: her body and soul. Rosa may be perceived as a hysteric in actions, however, the control of her narrative suggest the control of her hysteric identity. The fourth section, “Hysteria as Subversive Female Voice,” contends that Rosa’s peripheral position within the community and her hysteria allows her voice to resonate throughout the other narrators’ accounts. Rosa’s performative hysteric persona enables her to work within the patriarchal structure of her society to influence the male dominated storytelling. The final section, “Control of Gothic and Hysteric,” locates evidence of Rosa’s command of her own identity within the hysteric context. It contests other critics’ assertions that Rosa loses her voice and identity. Rosa’s hysteria as a subversive identity sustains itself even after the loss of Rosa’s voice. The use of a gothic and hysteric personality for a female narrator allows the paradoxical assertion of identity that those two attributes generally diminish.