Tonight, I got feedback for my paper on Katherine Anne Porter’s short novel Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939) from Ayendy Bonaficio, Matthew Connolly, and Joshua Leavitt. I look at how Porter’s use of monstrosity and apocalypse ties in with the tradition of American Gothic fiction. I’m interested in how Porter challenges notions of normative health and nationalism by showing that, as mutually reinforcing forces that control, shape, and contain bodies, medicine and patriotic fervor actually fuel war, plague, and alienation.
Porter’s subtly unsettling work is set during the 1918 influenza pandemic and the final days of World War I. The fusion of Gothic and modernist elements diagnose the widespread flu deaths and unquestioning devotion to a demonized German enemy as symptoms of a deeper American sickness of hatefulness, greed, and conformity. The bizarre dream sequences, stark descriptions of suffering from disease, and the cynical yet tortured protagonist, Miranda (who features in a number of Porter’s other works), has made this one of my favorite works of American modernism.
We discussed the introductory section of my paper, with some good discussion not only of tweaks to my paper, but approaches to constructing introductions in general. While I’ve been led to think that introductions need to lay out your project and claims as quickly as possible, we discussed a number of ways to set up your paper with more interesting build-up, such as introducing a brief close reading, or laying out some historical context.
I’m preparing a proposal for this paper for an edited collection on Women Writing World War I.