Date of Graduation

7-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Lisa A. Hinrichsen

Committee Member

M. Keith Booker

Second Committee Member

Susan M. Marren

Keywords

Language, literature and linguistics; In cold blood; Kansas; Southern gothic; Truman capote

Abstract

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is frequently the subject of critical analysis of its genre, its factual accuracy, and its style. Previous critical examinations of the text often briefly acknowledged the thematic connections between this text and Capote’s previous southern gothic work but do so without substantially delving into these similarities. For many, the text’s Kansas setting prevents the book from properly being considered southern gothic because Kansas is commonly perceived as the most quintessentially wholesome and American of states while the U.S. South is frequently deemed the site of taboo and undesirable activity. This thesis questions this dichotomy and considers the ramifications of southern gothic elements of criminality, queerness, and race in Capote’s In Cold Blood. Throughout the text, Capote evokes themes and imagery more commonly associated with the southern gothic but then subverts popular expectations by demonstrating how these behaviors exist even in the center of the American Heartland. In the depictions of criminality, violence, and the resulting anti-pastoralism that exists in the text, Capote questions the ideal of the bucolic rural farm and demonstrates that grotesque killers and violent impulses are not solely the products of southern gothic authors’ imaginations—they exist in rural Kansas as well. Capote’s portrayal of queerness also defies the common literary tendency of the early to mid-twentieth century to associate homosexual activity with the South, as he demonstrates how both homosexuality and gender role subversion are a part of Kansas life, too. Finally, In Cold Blood also demonstrates how racism is not exclusive to the South as Capote portrays the institutional racism within the Kansas prison system while also questioning the underlying logic of the black beast rapist trope. In Cold Blood ultimately demonstrates the problematic thinking in considering violence, queerness, and racism as exclusively southern and argues that, rather than banishing these concerns below the Mason-Dixon line, they are a part of a larger American identity.

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