Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Finding Rough America seeks to establish and examine the components of a body of texts, both in prose and film, that I call Rough America. I argue that this corpus works to broaden the cultural understanding of literature and film about the lives of American lower classes. To do so, I adopt and adapt Guy Standing’s conception of the “precariat class,” an economic classification used to identify the widespread precariousness among what was once the middle- and working-classes. After establishing Rough America as following in the tradition of American literary naturalism, I ground the study of the corpus’s primary thematic elements within a socio-economic reading that brings together Standing’s theory of the precariat class with neo-Marxist thought, with its syncretic approach to critical analysis. From that foundation I attempt to offer insight into the interconnectedness of gender and masculinity and violence within class-centric narratives. Gender-focused readings of these texts demonstrate how the failures of masculine identities and the endurance of female characters in the face of that failure serve to both reinforce and subvert, respectively, common cultural narratives. The discussion of violence within the study rounds out Rough America through an examination of the connection between subjective violence and objective violence wrought by daily life. As a whole, the study attempts to make clear how the intermingling of the themes of class, gender, and violence reveal a widely shared American experience.

Date

3-18-2019

Committee Chair

Catano, James

Available for download on Monday, March 16, 2026

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