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Drawing the Line

The Father Reimagined in Faulkner, Wright, O'Connor, and Morrison
Doreen Fowler

BUY Cloth · 184 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813933993 · $35.00 · May 2013
BUY Ebook · 184 pp. · ISBN 9780813934006 · $35.00 · May 2013

In an original contribution to the psychoanalytic approach to literature, Doreen Fowler focuses on the fiction of four major American writers—William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Flannery O'Connor, and Toni Morrison—to examine the father's function as a "border figure." Although the father has most commonly been interpreted as the figure who introduces opposition and exclusion to the child, Fowler finds in these literary depictions fathers who instead support the construction of a social identity by mediating between cultural oppositions.

Fowler counters the widely accepted notion that boundaries are solely sites of exclusion and offers a new theoretical model of boundary construction. She argues that boundaries are mysterious, dangerous, in-between places where a balance of sameness and difference makes differentiation possible. In the fiction of these southern writers, father figures introduce a separate cultural identity by modeling this mix of relatedness and difference. Fathers intervene in the mother-child relationship, but the father is also closely related to both mother and child. This model of boundary formation as a balance of exclusion and relatedness suggests a way to join with others in an inclusive, multicultural community and still retain ethnic, racial, and gender differences.

Fowler's model for the father's mediating role in initiating gender, race, and other social differences shows not only how psychoanalytic theory can be used to interpret fiction and cultural history but also how literature and history can reshape theory.


Fowler makes a persuasive argument about the connections between these four authors and cogently explains the southern historical legacy, infused with slavery and Jim Crow, that they share. Her revision of the father figure in psychoanalytic theory is boldly original and convincing, and it opens the way to insightful new readings of important texts."—

Jean Wyatt, author of Risking Difference: Identification, Race, and Community in Contemporary Fiction

Drawing the Line provides an incisive analysis of the role of the father in both affirming and crossing borders as well as an astute approach to southern literature. This is an important and provocative study that will become a go-to book for all interested in race, gender, and psychoanalysis. Meticulously researched, well documented, and very persuasive.

Deborah Clarke, Arizona State University, author of Robbing the Mother: Women in Faulkner

"Fowler's arguments... are not only convincing but surprisingly fresh, as if one were seeing a familiar text for the first time."

Flannery O'Connor Review

About the Author(s): 

Doreen Fowler, Professor of English at the University of Kansas, is the author of Faulkner: The Return of the Repressed (Virginia) and the coeditor of eleven volumes of the proceedings of the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference in Oxford, Mississippi.

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