Date Awarded

Summer 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Leisa Meyer

Committee Member

Carol Sheriff

Committee Member

Hiroshi Kitamura


“There is No Such Thing as Natural Beauty”: Dolly Parton’s Cinematic Performances and Concepts of Southern Womanhood Despite the influx of scholarship surrounding popular film and gender in recent years, little to no studies focus on one star’s impact on concepts of identity. The existing scholarship tends to investigate how types of films influence spectators’ understanding of the identities represented on screen. For instance, a study of female friendship films would argue that the spectators’ concepts of relationships and female to female interaction would be influenced. This paper aims to study one actress whose multiple representations of the same identity, both on and off screen, then influenced viewer’s perceptions of that identity’s power, sexuality, and place in society. The actress, Dolly Parton, starred in three major films throughout the 1980s that told the stories of southern women. The first of these movies, 9 to 5, conveys a feminist message regarding women in the workplace and this paper argues that Dolly’s personal life and reputation influenced how southern women reacted to that message. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Parton’s comments in the press provide contradicting and racialized images of female sexuality which this paper analyses and investigates viewer reception. Finally, this paper discusses the questions raised about the value of female life, reproduction and the boundaries of the domestic sphere in Steel Magnolias. “A Southerner Talking”: The Intersections of Race, Respectability, and Sexuality in the Mid-Century South as Revealed by the Content and Reception of Lillian Smith’s Novel Strange Fruit Lillian Smith was a controversial author and social activist whose work and life have long been studied. However, the mountain of academic work done about Smith seems to consistently overlook several important factors about her first novel Strange Fruit. For instance, the bulk of the existing scholarship limits the thematic importance of the novel’s content and Smith’s life to her arguments against racism and segregation. The novel also conveys Mid-Century perceptions of female sexuality and homosexuality. Drawing on Siobhan Somerville’s theory of the parallel development of categories of difference, this paper analyzes the ways in which Smith used discussions of miscegenation to subliminally discuss same sex love. Furthermore, this paper explores the critical receptions of this novel to demonstrate the racialized views of respectability that existed at the time of its release in 1944.




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