Clean and dirty reading : constructing and rejecting the hygienic imagination in fiction from Salinger to Egan.
This dissertation examines competing understandings of the hygienic imagination in American literature, from 1955-2010, in four writers: J.D. Salinger, John Rechy, Toni Morrison, and Jennifer Egan. Drawing from queer theory, new materialism, and ecocriticism, I trace the legacy of one exclusionary model of the United States’s hygienic imagination, one that links “nonnormative” bodies (chiefly, women, people of color, and queer people) with waste and dirtiness. Opposed to this exclusionary model is a more affirmative one that tears apart the connected link between filth and the “not-me” and that values dirt and waste as essential parts of human life. Salinger, Rechy, Morrison, and Egan demonstrate the positive ways that we can use waste to build communities that value every body, whether or not they are “clean” or “dirty.”