Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

4-22-2017

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

2017

Month Degree Awarded

May

Advisor Name

Moira Inghilleri

Co-advisor Name

Jessica Barr

Third Advisor Name

Cathy Schlund-Vials

Abstract

The focus of this thesis is on cultural translation as a means of understanding the relationship between sociocultural identity with respect to bourgeois white female sexuality and interpretations by news journalists, writers and filmmakers. The thesis brings translation scholar Lawrence Venuti’s description of foreign and domestic texts (2008) into conversation with Catherine Cole’s analysis of journalists as active interpreters of newsworthy events (2010) to support my view of the media as a translator of sociocultural identity. The thesis outlines the construction of bourgeois white femininity within the U.S. imaginary and a more detailed account of its direct impact upon journalistic production and reception. I accomplish this by analyzing the media treatment of two white females accused of murder whose criminal cases were brought into the public eye: Aileen Wuornos and Amanda Knox. I examine sociocultural expectations within the United States, as reflected in journalistic accounts, regarding appropriate ‘performances’ of bourgeois white femininity. Referring to the construction of bourgeois white femininity as a performative framework, I track its fabrication in media headlines, televised reports and articles of the Wuornos and Knox cases from sources like The New Yorker, Time, CNN and Fox News. My aim is to discover the different ideations, or translations, of this performative framework in written journalism and consider the repercussions of deviating from social expectations of bourgeois white womanhood. I then examine documentaries and televised interviews of Wuornos and Knox (from the Discovery Channel, ABC News, Netflix and other sources) where the same performative framework appears within their cinematic depictions. My findings regarding the journalistic translations of bourgeois white femininity reveal a particular form of weaponization of the news media in U.S. society with respect to white women. I extend my discussion to a review of the 2016 presidential election and Democratic party candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s own vexing position within the news media as a bourgeois white woman who, throughout the campaign, was accused of criminal activity. By scrutinizing the proliferation of this particular performative framework by the media, I press for more reflective and unbiased journalistic coverage of women in the future.

First Advisor

Moira Inghilleri

Second Advisor

Jessica Barr

Third Advisor

Cathy Schlund-Vials

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