Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

My dissertation examines the ways in which the short-story cycle has provided a unique generic framework for representing and investigating the complex interplay of contending forces that constitute what we think of as the American South. Often confused with a collection of disparate short stories or a novel, the short-story cycle is a collection of short stories in which each story is independent, but simultaneously interrelated to one another. Although the South has produced a number of short-story cycles or linked story collections, scholars have not paid much attention to the connection between the genre/form and the region. I consider, however, the genre/form has been an apt medium for writers to represent Southern society, which is a mosaic of diverse races and values, but certain actors and groups within it have attempted to imagine it and present it as having some sort of fundamental unity.

The most substantial scholarship on the genre agrees that some of the precursors of the American short-story cycle are a collection of regional sketches written in the nineteenth century. In order to clarify the important role that the short-story cycle has played in the history of the South and its literary history, I examine not only a short-story cycle proper such as William Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses (1942) and Eudora Welty’s The Golden Apples (1949), but also the works that can be regarded as pioneers of the southern short-story cycle, such as George Washington Cable’s The Grandissimes (1880) and Charles Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman (1899). I also analyze Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923) and Julia Peterkin’s Green Thursday (1924) not as a representative of literary modernism, for which scholars have considered the genre has a strong affinity, as an intersection of precursors of the cycle written in the nineteenth-century South and that written in the twentieth-century South. My dissertation explores how southern writers have been shaping the genre, adapting it to their own use, and redefining its limits so as to go beyond the idea and representation of “the South.”

Date

11-2-2021

Committee Chair

Costello, Brandon

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