Presentation Title

Class and Capital in LGBTQ Appalachian Literature

Presenter Information

Kristen LeFevers

Document Type

Panel Presentation

Keywords

LGBTQ, Appalachia, Queer, Capital, Class, Metronormativity

Biography

Kristen LeFevers is a graduate student in the Department of English, where she currently works as a tutor in the Writing Center. She earned her BA in English at the University of Charleston.

Major

English (MA)

Advisor for this project

Allison Carey

Start Date

23-4-2021 10:45 AM

Abstract

A dichotomy has long stood between the Appalachian setting and mainstream society, with many people holding the former as the embodiment of the crude, the uneducated, and the relic, and the latter as the standard of wealth, sophistication, and modernity. However, the complexity of queer life in Appalachia—or for queer Appalachian natives who choose to leave the region—is not limited to geographical place and differences, but, in many cases, may rely upon differences in class and capital, as well. These socioeconomic differences represent a theme that appears more than once in the LGBTQ literature from or about the region, such as Julia Watts’ Finding H.F., as well as Fenton Johnson’s Scissors, Paper, Rock and the accompanying short story “Bad Habits.” As we will see in these texts, being queer and a member of the Appalachian region is a struggle for the characters; however, I argue that the struggle is further complicated by issues of class, social standing, and each character’s lack or acquisition of the various forms of capital. Because of that complication, Watts’ and Johnson’s characters sometimes support but ultimately subvert the expectations of a metronormative mindset; in other words, they show that urban life does not always result in a quintessential happy ending for queer individuals and that remaining in the rural setting, despite its challenges and heartaches, is often a valid choice.

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Apr 23rd, 10:45 AM

Class and Capital in LGBTQ Appalachian Literature

A dichotomy has long stood between the Appalachian setting and mainstream society, with many people holding the former as the embodiment of the crude, the uneducated, and the relic, and the latter as the standard of wealth, sophistication, and modernity. However, the complexity of queer life in Appalachia—or for queer Appalachian natives who choose to leave the region—is not limited to geographical place and differences, but, in many cases, may rely upon differences in class and capital, as well. These socioeconomic differences represent a theme that appears more than once in the LGBTQ literature from or about the region, such as Julia Watts’ Finding H.F., as well as Fenton Johnson’s Scissors, Paper, Rock and the accompanying short story “Bad Habits.” As we will see in these texts, being queer and a member of the Appalachian region is a struggle for the characters; however, I argue that the struggle is further complicated by issues of class, social standing, and each character’s lack or acquisition of the various forms of capital. Because of that complication, Watts’ and Johnson’s characters sometimes support but ultimately subvert the expectations of a metronormative mindset; in other words, they show that urban life does not always result in a quintessential happy ending for queer individuals and that remaining in the rural setting, despite its challenges and heartaches, is often a valid choice.