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Marginality and emerging visibility of the altern subject: America's shifting social and cultural landscape 1940-1990

Debra Collins, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation examines how marginalized subjects have altered rigid structures of class, race, sexuality and gender in American culture during the fifty-year period from 1940 to1990. This research utilizes an interdisciplinary approach that sources literature, film, historical documents, government statistics, sociological studies, and urban history. These varied resources provide insight about subject identities that exist outside the social and cultural mainstream. Some examples include the sexual outlaw, the racial transgressor, and men who have sex with men but identify as heterosexual. This work explores how the marginalized subject has been a dynamic locus for social and cultural changes. The literary works selected examine the marginalized subject through the lenses of sexuality, race, class, and gender. Furthermore, the works expose how the marginalized subject and the social practices in which these individuals engage often serve as transgressive acts that dismantle the categories of race, class, gender and sexuality. The hyper-masculine "pimp persona" is one example where the paradoxes and interstitial spaces between male and female gender performance become blurred. Additionally, this work examines masculine subjectivity through film and television, with particular analysis given to the persona of the sexual outlaw, the "magical Negro and white working-class male subject.

Subject Area

African American Studies|American studies|American literature|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Collins, Debra, "Marginality and emerging visibility of the altern subject: America's shifting social and cultural landscape 1940-1990" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3603068.