Growing Cold: Postwar Women Writers and the Novel of Development, 1945-1960
Growing Cold: Postwar American Women Writers and the Novel of Development, 1945-1960, examines how women writers developed, negotiated, and struggled with representing adolescent girl selfhood in the novel of development – also termed the Bildungsroman – during the early postwar era. By examining four women's Bildungsromans written between 1946-1960 – Carson McCullers's The Member of the Wedding (1946), Jean Stafford's The Mountain Lion (1947), Shirley Jackson's Hangsaman (1951), and Harper
... 51), and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) – I show that postwar women writers were actively shaping the genre in a way that would fundamentally shift how adolescent girlhood would be represented in second wave feminist and contemporary female Bildungsromans. By 1960, adolescent girls in women's literature were far different from where they began in 1945: they were younger, more sexual, and more psychologically complex than the adolescent girl characters earlier in the 20th century. Yet these novels are also racially and sexually problematic, advancing white heteronormative identity at the expense of queer and racially othered characters. In this way, these writers suggest that postwar adolescent development is a process of "growing cold"; it is a process of loss, emptiness, and violence, leading to emotional and social isolation. This project therefore intervenes in postwar American literary studies and women's studies by raising awareness of the importance that postwar women writing played in the development of the contemporary Bildungsroman.