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Scholarly Essays

Resisting the Traditional Construction of Fatherhood and Masculinity in Elizabeth Spencer’s “Sightings” and “The Everlasting Light”

Emmeline Gros
p. 217-231

Abstract

Dans son article “Where are Fathers in American Literature?”, Josep Armengol reconnaît que l’absence ou la marginalisation du père dans la littérature américaine est l’une des plus grandes angoisses nationales. Armengol recense deux modèles de paternité qui dominent la littérature américaine : les pères autoritaires et ceux qui sont absents. Il s’ensuit que le père comme figure domestique (ou la nouvelle figure paternelle) reste un phénomène littéraire relativement inexploré. Les nouvelles de Spencer dans Starting Over sont remarquables pour leurs personnages et / ou leurs narrateurs masculins. De nombreuses histoires adoptent une approche ambiguë de la figure de la mère ou de la femme qui est souvent physiquement absente de l’intrigue ou demeure invisible. En examinant “The Everlasting Light” et “Sightings”, on remarque que c’est l’absence de l’épouse ou de la mère qui est soulignée par le narrateur et cette présence est remplacée par l’importance donnée à la figure de la fille. Cette marginalisation des figures maternelles trahit également une préoccupation certaine pour l’identité masculine. Les filles, en effet, enseignent aux hommes et aux pères leur vulnérabilité en tant qu’hommes de différentes façons. Ce faisant, Spencer revisite le rôle des pères et interroge les représentations traditionnelles de l’ordre patriarcal.

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Index terms

Studied authors:

Elizabeth Spencer
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Excerpt

Full text document will be published online on June 2021.

Outline

The Rebelling Daughter
Fatherhood in American Fiction
The Figure of the Father in Spencer’s Life and Stories
Mason, the New Father

First lines

Elizabeth Spencer has claimed that it is often easier to understand the South and one’s “southernness” by looking at the region (and the components of Southern identity) from a distance.As she said, “you can’t really know what it is to be southern unless you know what it is not to be southern” (“A Conversation” 61). For this reason, critics and scholars never fail to highlight Spencer’s love for travelling and her eagerness to move away from the South, from her kin, from home. Of course, if Spencer’s impulse away from home and family first appears as a voluntary geographical displacement, one should also remember that her split from home was also a literal one. It originated from her father’s rejection of her choice of career: left without financial support, isolated from her family, Spencer eventually found herself—to use Catherine Seltzer’s words—“orphaned,” forced to look at home from a distance, and “[t]his separation from the Father(s) is, of course, imbued with psychoanalytic ...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Emmeline Gros, Resisting the Traditional Construction of Fatherhood and Masculinity in Elizabeth Spencer’s “Sightings” and “The Everlasting Light”Journal of the Short Story in English, 72 | 2019, 217-231.

Electronic reference

Emmeline Gros, Resisting the Traditional Construction of Fatherhood and Masculinity in Elizabeth Spencer’s “Sightings” and “The Everlasting Light”Journal of the Short Story in English [Online], 72 | Spring 2019, Online since 01 June 2021, connection on 23 January 2021. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/jsse/2567

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About the author

Emmeline Gros

Emmeline Gros is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Toulon on the French Riviera. She is also the Chair of the Department of Applied Languages. She specializes in Southern American Literature and has written her Ph.D. dissertation on the figure of the Southern Gentleman and the reconstruction of masculinity in Post-Civil War years. As a fellow of the Georgia Rotary Student Scholarship, she attended Georgia State University from 2002 to 2008 and then the Université of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in France from 2008 to 2010. She wrote her Ph.D. under the international joint doctorate direction of Dr. Thomas McHaney (GSU, USA) and Dr. Jacques Pothier (UVSQ, France) and has published articles on Ellen Glasgow, Eudora Welty, and Margaret Mitchell and given talks about John Pendleton Kennedy, Tennessee Williams, and Julien Green.

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