Date of Award

Summer 2013

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Studies


Dr. Emily Russell

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul Reich


The death of the Confederacy sealed in white southern memory a lost world of beauty that denied the cruelty of its “peculiar institution.” Southern writers have seemed haunted by this conflict between the cherished past of their ancestors and the reality of the devastated region, with its legacy in slavery. Through the commentary of women diarists who mourn their crumbling society, and selected works of William Faulkner and Kate Chopin, this paper examines the myth and reality of the southern past. It reveals the enduring impact of the all-powerful white patriarchy that gave order to the antebellum South, destroyed it, and then frantically tried to shore-up the post-Civil War racial hierarchy that was being threatened by black emancipation and the acts of miscegenation during slavery. Historical figures and literary characters struggle in a societal order which situates the white man as omnipotent, the black woman as sexually available to him, the white woman as defenseless and chaste, and the black man as a predatory brute. While exposing the impossibility of the white supremacist design, this essay reveals a southern society whose inflexible beliefs about race and gender chain it to its difficult past.