Date of Award

5-16-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)

Department

Liberal Studies

First Reader

Thomas Lewis

Second Reader

Nina Fonoroff

Abstract

This critical discourse analysis examines representations of Eleanor Roosevelt in a wide range of biographical, docudrama, and documentary film and television from 1945 to 2014. By focusing on the figure known by many as the most important woman of the twentieth century, and one who appears as a character or subject in over eighty movies and television programs, I investigate recurring discourses around heteronormativity and cultural constructions of gender and sexuality for American women over time. These filmic portrayals reveal attempts to normalize Eleanor's life, framing her accomplishments and motivations through lenses of marriage and family, or they "queer" Eleanor's legacy by calling attention to difference. This includes themes that create an image of a lonely woman who must find fulfilment outside of a failed marriage, an asexual Victorian persona, or more recently, a very independent woman with a personal life outside of home and family. Today's Eleanor is not merely an extension of her husband, the eyes and ears of the President of the United States, nor his jilted wife, or even a saint.

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