Perilous Landscapes: The Postwar Suburb in Twentieth-Century American Fiction.

Show simple item record Stroud, Benjamin Christopher en_US 2009-09-03T14:42:25Z NO_RESTRICTION en_US 2009-09-03T14:42:25Z 2009 en_US en_US
dc.description.abstract In the decades following World War II the American landscape underwent a profound change as suburbs expanded to become, by 1990, the country’s dominant way of life, more populous than its rural areas and cities combined. This dissertation poses the question: how was this phenomenon portrayed in literature? In the first chapter I examine the image of the transformative mass-produced suburb as it spread through the fiction of writers as varied as Jack Kerouac and Richard Yates and argue that it represented fears for the uncertain future of America. The second chapter explores fiction in which suburban men react to the Cold War, revealing that feelings of threatened masculinity motivate their actions, while class determines their specific choices. The third chapter focuses on novels that treat the national upheaval of the late 60s and early 70s; in each novel, a daughter flees an upper-middle-class suburb for a sacked city, becoming a figure, I argue, for the draining of power from city to suburb while betraying the role of the American upper-middle class—which has tried to hide behind suburban innocuousness—in shaping cities and the wider world. The fourth chapter examines the stark change in representations of the suburb in novels of the 1970s and after. In these novels, the suburb grows dangerous and bleak, a change in tone that reflects a change in American society—the shifting from postwar prosperity and idealism to a period of recessions and disillusionment—and acts as a judgment of the original suburban promise that home ownership and living close to the land will make for better people. Each of these chapters revolves around its own central argument, but as they progress broader understandings of gender, class, and the genealogy of suburban fiction emerge. Perhaps the most surprising of these is the fictional suburb’s identification as a masculine space (across the novels, men show more attachment to their homes while their wives and daughters flee or perish). With such findings, this dissertation opens up the canon of suburban fiction while arguing for its indispensability to a full understanding of twentieth-century American literature and culture. en_US
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dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.subject Suburban Fiction en_US
dc.subject Twentieth-Century American Fiction en_US
dc.subject Suburbs en_US
dc.subject Postwar Fiction en_US
dc.subject Middle-Class Fiction en_US
dc.subject American Fictioni en_US
dc.title Perilous Landscapes: The Postwar Suburb in Twentieth-Century American Fiction. en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreename Ph.D. en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreediscipline English Language & Literature en_US
dc.description.thesisdegreegrantor University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Yaeger, Patricia Smith en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Blair, Sara B. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Lassiter, Matthew D. en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Levinson, Julian A. en_US
dc.subject.hlbsecondlevel English Language and Literature en_US
dc.subject.hlbtoplevel Humanities en_US
dc.owningcollname Dissertations and Theses (Ph.D. and Master's)
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