Date of Award

8-10-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Gina Caison

Second Advisor

Audrey Goodman

Third Advisor

Christopher Kocela

Abstract

Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962) presents a mental health institution, which, through narrator “Chief” Bromden’s eyes, is a factory for “the Combine,” the all-encompassing, normalizing power structure throughout society. Nurse Ratched, a caricature of the emasculating villainess, controls the men inside the ward through surveillance, forced confessional discourse, and discipline. Scholarship has primarily focused on the misogyny and hypermasculinity in the novel, wholly ignoring the queerness that undercurrents Bromden and fellow patient Dale Harding. Bromden—inherently queered as a Native man in a settler state— and Harding— symbolic of internalized heteronormative pressures— together represent how institutions and relationships alike function to forcibly “straighten” queer individuals. Evoking Foucault, Sedgwick, and queer Indigenous scholars, this thesis argues that Kesey’s novel, despite its dated and offensive depiction of women and people of color, nevertheless remains a relevant warning of power’s influence and shifting technologies of control over queer individuals.

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