The English MA program at The College of New Jersey would like to send their kudos and congratulations to Nicole Magno (English MA class of 2013) and Lindsay Rogers (’15), who were featured in the fall 2013 issue of The Thornton Wilder Society Newsletter published this past October. In the ‘Conference Report’ section of the newsletter, The Thornton Wilder Society highlights the contributions of our student scholars who sat on a panel called “Thornton Wilder and the Theater of Engagement” at the 24th Annual Conference of the American Literature Association in Boston from May 23–26, 2013.
“Nicole Magno, a graduate student from The College of New Jersey, explored “Carnivalesque Havoc and the Shifting of Gendered Stages in Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker and The Eighth Day.” While Wilder often challenges strict gender roles in his works, she argued that both The Matchmaker and The Eighth Day reveal his preference for a matriarchal rule. In order to create this matriarchy, Wilder uses elements of Bakhtin’s carnival, a ritualistic event that suspends socioeconomic hierarchies, celebrates transition, and exposes joyful relativity. Havoc ensues when the hierarchal patriarchy is challenged, allowing for the shift between patriarchy and matriarchy. By de-crowning the patriarchs, the matriarchal figures, from Mrs. Levi to Mrs. Lansing, are able to rise and rule. Consequently, Magno posited, Wilder creates a space which, while ruled by women, allows for greater gender equality and illustrates that gender is not innate, but rather a relative performance where men and women are merely players.”
“In ‘Contesting Heteronormativity and Constructing the Essential Woman in Wilder’s Three Plays,’ Lindsay Rogers, another graduate student from The College of New Jersey, argued that through Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth, and The Matchmaker, Wilder allies himself with his female characters who are forced to reckon with the oppressive hegemonic discourse of patriarchal society. In Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, Wilder details the markers of essential femininity through mothers and daughters who represent generations of women amidst changing times. Wilder’s essential woman demonstrates intelligence, practicality, deep emotion, spiritual transcendence, wisdom, fertility, leadership, and disruptive feminine aggression. In The Matchmaker, Wilder’s essential femininity, represented by Dolly Levi, disregards traditional and patriarchal notions of being and embraces the diversity of women’s humanity. Glorifying the role of Woman as the hub of the society-sustaining family, usually underappreciated in patriarchal society, Rogers saw Wilder sympathize with women and advocate for their advancement, self-actualization, and enfranchisement, subversively commencing his literary fight against the rigid heteronormativity of patriarchal society.”
- To read more about the Thornton Wilder panel at the American Literature Association Conference, you can access the full-text of the article that appeared in The Thornton Wilder Society Newsletter here.
- Interested students can learn more about The Thornton Wilder Society and how to become a member by checking out their website, http://www.thorntonwildersociety.org/ or contacting Dr. Konkle at firstname.lastname@example.org.