Campus Location

Abilene Campus

Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Department

English

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Committee Chair

Steven Moore

Second Committee Member

Cole Bennett

Third Committee Member

Sandy Freeman

Abstract

Though clothes are often said to “make the man,” they are not frequently said to build a character. This thesis explores the ways in which clothing was a performative tool for those who wore it during the 1920s in America as well as for authors who wrote about this world in which they lived. This study’s theoretical framework is inspired by Judith Butler’s concept of the performative; it is also influenced by historical research into the clothing of the 1920s. Primary texts explored include F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, and Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral. In each of these works, clothing is used symbolically as a way to emphasize thematic elements, but it is also used as a tool through which the author builds characters. Through careful crafting of the self’s appearance, individuals choose to either conform to the world around them or to subvert it. Furthermore, these characters use clothing to specific purposes, mirroring the utility of garments in the real world, whether one is examining contemporary society or a specific era like the Jazz Age.

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