Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Redneck images pervade contemporary American culture and provide a pattern for national behavior. As globalization and multiculturalism change the demographics of the nation, covert Redneck codes enforce previous hegemonies of race, class, and gender. Imbued with incontestable American character, the Redneck becomes an ideological force capable of defending the nation from destabilizing cultural incursions. The maintenance of these Redneck codes relies on the continued reassertion of Southern and Appalachian stereotypes, since these regions must be maintained as authentic homelands for the identity character.;In this project, I locate a literary genealogy for the American Redneck and examine the roots and function of that identity through the complementary lenses of American Studies and Cultural Studies. My methodology draws on the seminal work of Henry Nash Smith and Richard Slotkin and their attention to the function of myth and symbol in American culture, with theoretical overlay from Louis Althusser, Jean Baudrillard, and Guy Debord. In considering the issues of representation present in these latter cultural theorists, I seek to reinvigorate Slotkin's notion of the narrative, instead of the discursive, expression of ideology. By examining primary texts ranging from Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales to Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road, and pop-cultural texts like Smokey and the Bandit, and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, I demonstrate how the mythological presence of the redneck narrative works to create a representational ideological category of hegemonic identity. The simulated and constructed realities of textual reception map onto the lives of the American working poor to emphasize a realistic if fully phantom and constantly shifting sense of common American identity. The notion of an authentic Redneck becomes normalized through the repetition of stock Southern and Appalachian myths, which in turn makes possible the hegemonic activation of these narratives. The force of representation seeks to make possible only dominant perspectives, defending hegemonic power from potential disruption.
Ferrence, Matthew Joseph, "You Are and You Ain't: Redneck Literature and the Imposition of Identity" (2010). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 4589.