Gender and the grotesque in the short fiction of Joyce Carol Oates

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elizabeth De Nittis (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
Tiffany Gilbert

Abstract: This thesis is a study of five works of short fiction by author Joyce Carol Oates. One story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” is one of her best-known and often criticized, while the other four, “Haunted,” “The Premonition,” and “Extenuating Circumstances” are part of a lesser-known collection entitled Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque. The similarity running through all four stories is Oates’ use of the grotesque image in her depiction of violence, and the implications about gender roles found therein. Oates’ work is famous for its attention to violence perpetrated by men upon women, and the first story includes such. However, in the other three stories, the aggressor is female, and her action seems to represent an inability to achieve or a frustration with the feminine role; her violence is a grotesque inversion of idealized femininity. The aim of this thesis is to explore Oates’ treatment of gender and violence using elements of the grotesque. While much criticism of Oates suggests that she uses grotesque violence to bemoan the victimization of women, my contention is that her treatment of gender reveals that, regardless of sex, individuals who strive to conform to the prescribed gender roles society presents to them are grotesque and problematic.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Grotesque in literature, Males in literature, Oates Joyce Carol 1938- --Criticism and interpretation, Sex role in literature, Violence in literature
Violence in literature
Grotesque in literature
Males in literature
Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938- -- Criticism and interpretation
Sex role in literature

Email this document to