Ultimately, my focus is the relationship between region and gender. My monograph, Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion (forthcoming Spring 2017 from Louisiana State University's Southern Literary Studies series), examines the preponderance of ugly female characters in fiction written by southern women in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. In contrast to popular ideas of the beautiful southern belle, my project identifies the specifically southern definition of “being ugly,” meaning inappropriate or rebellious behavior, and connects this meaning to a tradition of ugly female characters. This alternative genealogy which I term the ugly plot, in contradistinction to more familiar courtship and marriage plots, functions as a vehicle for social rebellion. I propose that ugliness marks those who for various reasons are not suitable for the expected roles of wife and mother and instead enables a rebellion existence outside of normative southern gender roles and marriage economies. My project differentiates ugliness from categories with which it is often conflated (such as the grotesque or the abject) and demonstrates how twentieth century women writers have utilized the figure of the ugly woman as an act of rebellion against the narrow strictures of southern gender roles.
My next project grew out of my participation in the 2014 NEH Summer Seminar “Reconsidering Flannery O’Connor” and my research in O’Connor’s archives both at Georgia College as well as the new collection at Emory University. Having manuscripts from her first novel, Wise Blood, in which O’Connor wrote (and deleted from her final manuscript) scenes dealing with abortion, my next project examines references to and scenes of abortion in American fiction. Though only in its early stages, I expect the parameters of this study to be between the enactment of the Comstock laws in the late nineteenth century to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, and that it will include work by authors such as William Faulkner, Richard Brautigan, and Shirley Ann Grau. The paper I am presenting at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association this fall, “Summer and Others: Edith Wharton’s Representations of Reproduction,” is part of this new project.
Since participating in the O'Connor Seminar, I have focused increasingly on her work in my scholarship, both formal publications and more informal writings and talks. Living in Atlanta has provided opportunities to do research in her archives at Georgia College and State University as well as the recently released archives at Emory University. I enjoy archival research, having won fellowships to work in both the Eudora Welty archive at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as well as the Dorothy Allison archive at Duke University.