Blowing Up the Nuclear Family: Shirley Jackson’s Queer Girls in Postwar US Culture




Afro-Latina, racism, gender, body, slam poetry, sexual desire, embodied discourse, self-representation


This paper intends to analyze the representation of girlhood as a liminal space in three novels by Shirley Jackson: The Bird’s Nest (1954), The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). Bearing in mind how nuclear fears and the national identity are configured around the ideal of a safe domestic space in US postwar culture, the paper explores cultural anxieties about teenage girls who refuse to conform to normative femininity, following Lee Edelman’s theory of the Child as the future of the nation (2004). I will argue that Jackson criticizes the rigid possibilities for women at this time, and I will show how her representations of deviant femininity refuse and subvert the discourse of the nation.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Laura de la Parra Fernández, Nebrija University

Dr Laura de la Parra Fernández

Program Director, BA in Modern Languages

Department of Applied Languages

School of Languages and Education

Nebrija University


AHMED, Sara. Cultural Politics of Emotion. 2004. Edinburgh UP, 2014.

---. The Promise of Happiness. Duke UP, 2010.

BANKS, Emily. “Insisting on the Moon: Shirley Jackson and the Queer Future.” Shirley Jackson and Domesticity, edited by Jill E. Anderson and Melanie R. Anderson. Blooomsbury, 2020, pp. 169–188.

BERLANT, Lauren. The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture. Duke UP, 2008.

--- and Lee Edelman. Sex, or the Unbearable. Duke UP, 2014.

CAMINERO-SANTANGELO, Marta. “Multiple Personality Disorder and the Postmodern Subject: Theorizing Agency.” Shirley Jackson: Essays on the Literary Legacy, edited by Bernice Murphy. McFarland, 2005, pp. 52–79.

CARPENTER, Lynette. “Establishment and Preservation of Female Power in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 8, no.1, 1984, pp. 32–38.

---. “Domestic Comedy, Black Comedy, and Real Life: Shirley Jackson, a Woman Writer.” Faith of a Woman Writer, edited by Alice Kessler-Harris and William McBrien. Greenwood Press, 1988. 143–148.

DE LAURETIS, Teresa. Alice Doesn’t: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema. Indiana University Press, 1984.

DRISCOLL, Catherine. “Girls Today: Girlhood, Culture.” Girlhood Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2008, pp. 13–32.

EDELMAN, Lee. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Duke UP, 2004.

JACKSON, Shirley. The Bird’s Nest. Penguin, 2014.

---. The Haunting of Hill House. Penguin, 1984.

---. We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Penguin, 2009.

HOCHSCHILD, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: The Commercialization of Human Feeling. California UP, 1983.

LEYS, Ruth. “The Real Miss Beauchamp: An Early Case of Traumatic Dissociation.” Trauma: A Genealogy, The U of Chicago P, 2000, pp. 41–82.

LOOTENS, Tricia. “‘Whose Hand Was I Holding?’: Familial and Sexual Politics in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.” Shirley Jackson: Essays on the Literary Legacy, edited by Bernice M. Murphy. McFarland, 2005, pp. 150–168.

LUNBECK, Elizabeth. The Psychiatric Persuasion: Knowledge, Gender and Power in Modern America. Princeton UP, 1994.

MAY, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Postwar Era. Basic Books, 1988.

RICH, Adrienne. “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience.” Signs, vol. 5, no. 4, 1980, pp. 633–660.

RUBENSTEIN, Roberta. “House Mothers and Haunted Daughters: Shirley Jackson and Female Gothic”. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 15, no. 2, 1996, pp. 209–331.

SHOTWELL, Alexis. “‘No proper feelings for her house’: The Relational Formation of White Womanliness in Shirley Jackson’s Fiction.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 32, no. 1, 2013, 119–141.

SINFIELD, Alan. Literature, Politics and Culture in Postwar Britain. Basil Blackwell, 1989.

WALLACE, Honor McKitrick. “‘The Hero Is Married and Ascends the Throne’: The Economics of Narrative End in Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 22, no. 1, 2003, pp. 173–191.




How to Cite

de la Parra Fernández, L. “Blowing Up the Nuclear Family: Shirley Jackson’s Queer Girls in Postwar US Culture”. Revista De Estudios Norteamericanos, vol. 25, Mar. 2021, doi:10.12795/REN.2021.i25.02.



Received 2020-07-22
Accepted 2020-12-11
Published 2021-03-05
  • Abstract 745
  • pdf 615