BLS 380 Redefining the Southern Belle

This course focuses on the historic roots of the Southern Belle and examines how our understanding of this idealized identity has changed over time.  First nationally popularized through the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, the image of the Belle was deeply rooted in the romanticized culture often referred to as “moonlight and magnolias.” Belles were metaphorically placed on a pedestal and depicted as beautiful, charming, kind, submissive, and above all, pure.  Overlooked in this simplistic and perfectionist vision of women are the ways in which race and class defined who was worthy of the title.  Deeply rooted in a conservative patriarchal and religious culture, the social construct of the Southern Belle became the expectation for certain women and severely limited the possibilities for others.  Through a range of readings and films, we will analyze these ideas from a historical perspective as we look at race, gender, labor, education, religion, and politics.