Subjugated Citizenship: The Politics and Psychology of Domesticity in The Street by Ann Petry, The Dollmaker by Harriet Arnow, and The Changelings by Jo Sinclair Open Access

Simoneau, Elizabeth (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5138jf23d?locale=en
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Abstract

Abstract
Subjugated Citizenship:
The Politics and Psychology of Domesticity in
The Street by Ann Petry, The Dollmaker by Harriet Arnow,
and The Changelings by Jo Sinclair
By Elizabeth Simoneau
This dissertation examines three novels: The Street by Ann Petry, The Dollmaker by
Hariette Arnow , and The Changelings by Jo Sinclair and explores the following
questions: Do these novels offer any insights into the politics of American
citizenship? Do they illuminate or challenge conventional knowledge regarding the
political context of the 1940s and 1950s? Can contemporary political analyses-
particularly those concerned with autonomy, individualism, and liberalism be useful
in interpreting midcentury literary texts? This analysis uses contemporary feminist
political theory and its criticism of liberalism to examine the discursive context
within which these novels were produced. While it can be argued that these novels
anticipate a feminist criticism of liberalism and its reliance on conventional gender
expectations, they do not present a cohesive criticism of liberal political philosophy.
Instead, they engage and oppose the dominant discourses of citizenship that were in
circulation during this time period, which positioned motherhood and the domestic
sphere as the site upon which the stability of democracy and the production of ideal
citizens depended. The novels resist these discourses in several ways. First, they
undermine the strict division between the public sphere and the private sphere that
was said to be crucial for securing democracy. However, the novels do not refute
the importance of the domestic sphere and its role in socializing individuals and
perpetuating social values. Rather, they demonstrate how the ideal domestic space,
characterized by an insular nuclear family, is unattainable by some families and
individuals and not conducive to fostering democratic values for others-whether
due to structural inequality or psychological anxiety. Second, they address specific
social expectations regarding behavior and relationships-especially with respect to
sexuality and motherhood-and indicate the ways in which these expectations are,
again, unattainable or contradictory to the goal of upholding democracy. Finally, the
analysis concludes by arguing that as they reveal the contradictions that inhere in
the dominant discourses of American citizenship, the novels illustrate the economic
and psychological conditions that render citizenship and its promises difficult, if not
impossible, to attain for women, the poor and working class, and families of color.

Subjugated Citizenship:
The Politics and Psychology of Domesticity in
The Street by Ann Petry, The Dollmaker by Harriet Arnow,
and The Changelings by Jo Sinclair
By
Elizabeth Simoneau
B.A., Syracuse University, 1997
M.A., The Ohio State University, 2002
Adviser: Frances Smith Foster, Ph.D.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the
James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies of Emory University
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy in
Women's Studies
2011

Table of Contents

Table of Contents




Introduction








1


Chapter One:








22
"Always the mother's fault": Recalling Structural Inequality in Anticipation of
Antiracist Liberalism in Ann Petry's The Street (1946).


Chapter Two:








72
"Many children from many places and in they end they all adjust": American
Citizenship and the Contradictions of Conformity in Harriette Arnow's The
Dollmaker
(1954).


Chapter Three:








124
"Let us look to our hearts for identity": From Anxiety and Assimilation to
Psychological Protest in Jo Sinclair's The Changelings (1955).




Epilogue









170


Works Cited








182

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