Title page for ETD etd-06302010-155903


Type of Document Dissertation
Author Dupuy, Jason
Author's Email Address jdupuy7@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-06302010-155903
Title Paths of Most Resistance: Navigating the Culture Industry in William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Delmore Schwartz, and Eudora Welty
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Moreland, Richard Committee Chair
Costello, Brannon Committee Member
Freedman, Carl Committee Member
Michie, Elsie Committee Member
Weber, Christopher Dean's Representative
Keywords
  • modernism
  • culture industry
  • popular culture
  • mass culture
  • Schwartz
  • Wright
  • Welty
  • Faulkner
Date of Defense 2010-06-08
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
This dissertation explores how four modernist writers of the 1930s and 1940s—William

Faulkner, Richard Wright, Delmore Schwartz, and Eudora Welty—used their works to present

ways to resist and navigate what they present as the frequently reductive worldview offered by

the culture industry. Faulkner tends to show the culture industry as selling easy answers that

focus on the end result, which allows his characters to approach the culture industry with a

sense of fatalism. To resist this, Faulkner stresses a step-by-step, complex dialectical

understanding of the culture industry, one that shows the fissures in its seemingly

straightforward narratives and allows the reader to see how the narratives of the culture

industry are not totalizing and can be resisted. Richard Wright, with his Native Son (1940), has

written a better piece of mass culture, one that both gives the reader what he wants and helps

show how the pleasures of mass culture are tied to a racist system. More than any of the other

writers I’m discussing, Wright courts a wide audience by expertly using the tropes of various

popular forms of the late 1930s—movies, crime novels, gothic fiction, newspapers, protest

novels—and then adds an extra layer of analysis that explores how these pieces of mass culture

are not ideologically neutral. One of the protagonists in a Delmore Schwartz story compares a movie to the Oracle at Delphi, which gave prophesies enigmatic enough to allow differing

interpretations. The masses in Schwartz’s stories approach mass culture looking for simple

entertainment, and that’s what they get. The conflicted artist figures who are the protagonists of Schwartz’s stories approach mass culture more complexly, and Schwartz shows how an

artistically inclined mind can find much of value in mass culture if he knows what to look for.

Eudora Welty, finally, shows mass culture as something that can help compound a sense of

(frequently female) alienation. For Welty, it is small moments of emotional connection that

allow people to find a way out of the totalizing system of mass culture.

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