Participation Type

Paper

Session Title

Session 3.04 Women and Gender

Presentation #1 Title

The “whore of Babylon will come forth in the last days wearing pants”: An Ecofeminist Approach to Gender Roles in Ron Rash’s Serena

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

I will address the use of gender roles in Ron Rash's Serena, examining closely the interplay between George and Serena Pemberton and Rachel Harmon and the natural world. In Ron Rash’s 2008 novel Serena, set in the mountains of western North Carolina, the natural world is decidedly more significant than merely providing a setting that is “prettier than fall of spring when the dogwood branches swayed and sparkled as if harboring clouds of white butterflies” (Serena 42). Indeed, primary characters (namely, George and Serena Pemberton and Rachel Harmon) are defined by their individual relationships to the land and their use of natural resources. As such, I will demonstrate that much of the novel questions accepted gender roles and the naturalization of white, heterosexual male dominance over the natural world. It can hardly be disputed that Serena and George Pemberton both seek to dominate the landscape; while George’s assumption of this domination reflects what may be seen as a naturalized relationship between white heterosexual males and nature, I will argue that Serena’s aggressive destruction necessitates an abandonment of the traditional female gender role. This abandonment situates Serena outside societal expectations for woman, a position mirrored by her position as an outsider within the novel. Rash’s deconstruction of femininity, coupled with Serena’s lack of cultural assimilation, enables this character to dominate the landscape. To emphasize this point, I will address the role of Rachel within the novel, arguing that one of her primary functions is to provide a contrast to Serena. Rachel’s knowledge of the natural world and acceptance of traditional gender roles provides a foil to Serena’s unnatural environmental destruction, and ultimately points readers towards a reimagined future.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Elisabeth Aiken is an Assistant Professor at Saint Leo University, and is interested in the dynamic role that literature plays in shaping, preserving, and advocating for Appalachian culture.

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Mar 27th, 1:30 PM Mar 27th, 2:45 PM

The “whore of Babylon will come forth in the last days wearing pants”: An Ecofeminist Approach to Gender Roles in Ron Rash’s Serena

I will address the use of gender roles in Ron Rash's Serena, examining closely the interplay between George and Serena Pemberton and Rachel Harmon and the natural world. In Ron Rash’s 2008 novel Serena, set in the mountains of western North Carolina, the natural world is decidedly more significant than merely providing a setting that is “prettier than fall of spring when the dogwood branches swayed and sparkled as if harboring clouds of white butterflies” (Serena 42). Indeed, primary characters (namely, George and Serena Pemberton and Rachel Harmon) are defined by their individual relationships to the land and their use of natural resources. As such, I will demonstrate that much of the novel questions accepted gender roles and the naturalization of white, heterosexual male dominance over the natural world. It can hardly be disputed that Serena and George Pemberton both seek to dominate the landscape; while George’s assumption of this domination reflects what may be seen as a naturalized relationship between white heterosexual males and nature, I will argue that Serena’s aggressive destruction necessitates an abandonment of the traditional female gender role. This abandonment situates Serena outside societal expectations for woman, a position mirrored by her position as an outsider within the novel. Rash’s deconstruction of femininity, coupled with Serena’s lack of cultural assimilation, enables this character to dominate the landscape. To emphasize this point, I will address the role of Rachel within the novel, arguing that one of her primary functions is to provide a contrast to Serena. Rachel’s knowledge of the natural world and acceptance of traditional gender roles provides a foil to Serena’s unnatural environmental destruction, and ultimately points readers towards a reimagined future.