Measured on a Sunbeam: Body, Gender, and Performance in Zelda Fitzgerald's Figural Artworks

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While scholars have examined the life and literature of twentieth-century American artist and writer Zelda Fitzgerald, many have failed to recognize her artistic production as the mode of creative expression that most effectively and maturely communicated her shifting notions of body, gender, performance, and identity. In this thesis, I argue that Fitzgerald's figural artworks hold the key to understanding how her conceptions of self evolved. My research builds upon existing scholarship that considers Fitzgerald's life through the lens of performance, but I diverge from literary studies that interpret her written work as her most authoritative narrations of identity. Rather, I suggest that by using the tools that were most accessible to her, that is painting and drawing, Fitzgerald began to challenge the standards of ideal femininity to which she had been expected to adhere. By chronologically tracing her subversions, obliterations, and reclamations through a close examination of her figural paintings, I reveal Fitzgerald's intimate interactions with visual production as well as the autobiographical and performative functions of her artistry.

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