Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

J. Gerald Kennedy


In the years following the end of World War II, a new kind of landscape emerged in the United States, one that would immeasurably alter the way Americans think about place. Critics and commentators greeted the emergence of the environment we know as "suburbia" with a mixed reaction: for some, the suburbs represented the material embodiment of the "American Dream"; for others, architectural and environmental homogeneity marked the new suburbs as an alienating, even dangerous terrain. In the half-century since the onset of mass-suburbanization, the United States---which has, by now, become a primarily suburban nation---has continued to struggle with the image and cultural meanings of suburbia. Our vexed cultural relationship to the suburban landscape, evident even before the onset of postwar mass-suburbanization, has characterized a small but compelling body of fictional and cinematic works set in the suburbs. This dissertation examines the representations of suburban life and landscape in fictional works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, John Updike, Ann Beattie, and Gloria Naylor, and in films by Frank Capra, Frank Perry, Mike Nichols, Bryan Forbes, and Reginald Hudlin. I argue that these writers and filmmakers self-consciously explore the dynamics of the suburban environment in their works, revealing the cultural aspirations and anxieties undergirding our relationship to suburbia as a lived environment and an idea(l). Their works present contrasting visions of the suburbs, reflecting America's troubled and increasingly complex relationship to an environment that, ultimately, mirrors the fantasies and phobias of the culture at large.