“No proper feeling for her house”: The Relational Formation of White Womanliness in Shirley Jackson’s Fiction

Alexis Shotwell, Laurentian University
Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring 2013), 119-141

Jackson is part of a significant strain in American writing by women that attends to houses, housekeeping, and being part of a social polity that emphasizes “proper womanliness.” Her work offers a rich critique of middle-class white heteropatriarchy, even when she is writing about it most gently. This paper argues that Jackon’s fiction makes an important theoretical point: gender is a relational enactment, suturing together material realities through racialized social relations. Jackson’s stories from the fifties can be seen as exemplary of this relational formation of gender. In her work, race, sexuality, class, and gender are made through and with the relations between women and the houses they tend.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]