Not my father's son: the gay subject and white masculine identity in contemporary southern literature
"Not My Father's Son" explores a new generation of white southern sons in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century whose resistance to the problematic construction of masculinity and the violence needed to sustain it allows them both the freedom to acknowledge openly their same-sex desires and to embrace life, as opposed to death, in the face of a homosexual identity that lies before them. Rather than excavate queer subjects that may have been coded in earlier mid-twentieth-century texts, my dissertation examines the psychological shifts concerning white masculinity that must occur for these gay subjects to exist openly and without compromise. In addressing the struggle these sons face in revising a problematic vision of the father, I discuss selected fiction and non-fiction from southern, white male authors written in the past thirty years, including two recently published memoirs by gay, southern, white men, Kevin Jennings and Kevin Sessums; a memoir by Lewis Nordan; and selected fiction from both Nordan and Jim Grimsley. I argue that these historical and literary depictions of white, gay, southern men in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century invoke a new paradigm in which the sons' challenge to the historical forces of supremacy (racism, sexism, and homophobia) inherent in the legacy of the white southern father opens up new spaces for both gay characters and gay men to exist.