Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

American Writers of Popular Rebellion: Gender, Race, and Class, 1945-Present

Stevie Kaye Seibert Desjarlais, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation presents literary and cultural analyses of twentieth- and twenty-first-century novels and films that weave together a fabric of reverence for masculine-centric and white supremacist rebellion in mainstream American society. By tracing the evolution of admiration for social rebels following World War II through the lens of the literary and cinematic outsider, connections are drawn between alienation, rebellion, violence and white supremacy, with primary focus on gendered experiences. To understand and unpack the values of popular American rebellion as it advances from the middle of the twentieth century into the present, I examine an ideal rebel emerging from the literary and cultural movement of the Beat Generation following World War II. In Chapter 1, rebellion is examined through a lens of mid-century masculinity using J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962). In Chapter 2, I analyze Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar (1967) and Diane Di Prima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik (1969) to illuminate the different expressions and reception of women’s rebellion, and introduce intersections of gender and race as also tied to counterculture through James Baldwin’s essay, “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy” (1961), a direct response to Norman Mailer’s appropriation of Black people’s political and social subjugation to characterize the outsider status of Beats in his essay, “The White Negro” (1957). The third chapter further dissects ties between gender and race as I unpack violent acts perpetuated by white female characters. The role of violence that is woven throughout popular rebel narratives comes to a point in my discussion of Gillian Flynn’s novel, Gone Girl (2012), and its film adaptation by David Fincher (2014). Finally, in the fourth chapter I explore the revolutionary potential of existing amid violent systems without perpetuating subjugation through Patrick Demme’s film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Jewelle Gomez’s novel, The Gilda Stories (1991).

Subject Area

American studies|American literature|Gender studies|Film studies

Recommended Citation

Seibert Desjarlais, Stevie Kaye, "American Writers of Popular Rebellion: Gender, Race, and Class, 1945-Present" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI13814198.