Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The two decades between World Wars I and II were a remarkably isolationist, xenophobic period in the history of American politics and culture. In the era’s literature, however, some US authors repurposed regional writing as a medium for rethinking conservative nationalism and for imagining their country’s place in the emerging global community. F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose career successes and failures mirrored the parabolic national pattern of Boom and Bust, was one such author. Though his works have seldom been interpreted through a regionalist lens, Fitzgerald lived in and wrote about every major American section, often planting tropes of transregional and transnational significance in his “local color” fictions, using US place to address sociopolitical topics. When Fitzgerald wrote about his native Midwest, he contrasted its pastoral past with its rapidly urbanizing present; in taking up this theme, he linked his works with a body of 1920s fiction and social scientific discourse arguing that newly-booming Midwestern cities presented evidence of a spreading cultural homogeneity. His stories about the South ponder the role of biological determinism in inter-regional debates about defining “progress” and “regress” in the 1920s. In his writings about the regional East, he frequently incorporated nominal “Oriental” elements, juxtaposing the excessive privilege of blue-blooded American “Brahmin” with the plight of Asian immigrants assailed in the era by draconian immigration reform. Fitzgerald’s American West came to serve in his late career works as a representation of moribund Western Civilization, beleaguered by fascism and anti-democratic elements; like a handful of other authors in the 1930s, he drew inspiration from the elegiac, apocalyptic tone of the Western film genre, and he combined Western tropes with the philosophy of Oswald Spengler to express his pessimism about the “decline of the West.” Even his writings about foreign locales contained traces of American regional and national identities, for he compared the multiracial French Riviera to the miscegenated American South, and he critiqued American usurpations of French space in 1920s Paris. Fitzgerald’s works (and those of his literary peers) provide an invaluable index for reevaluating the significance of regionalist prose in a transnational context.



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Committee Chair

Kennedy, J. Gerald