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Title: Intimate fractions of American earth : excavating the frontier in fictional Los Angeles, 1929-1953
Author: Docherty, Michael Joseph
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis proposes that fictions depicting Los Angeles between the onset of the Great Depression and the early 1950s reconstitute and interrogate historical notions of 'the frontier' as a conceptual framework with which to figure labour, masculinity, and race within spaces of urban modernity. Key texts explored include works by James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, John Fante, Frank Fenton, Chester Himes, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Hisaye Yamamoto. This thesis' methodology engages with the frontier's historiography, the material conditions of mid-century Los Angeles, theorisations of space drawn primarily from the works of Henri Lefebvre, and critical whiteness studies. Established criticism typically claims that the defining paradigm of LA fiction in the 1930s and '40s is one of tragic continental finality, reflecting its era's fears that the 'closure' of America's western frontier had divested the nation of its ambitious and energetic character. My research challenges this orthodoxy by suggesting that circumscribed social horizons in these texts result not from any inability to perpetuate the frontier but from a collective failure to stop perpetuating it. This thesis thus fundamentally re-evaluates the contribution of LA's fiction to a post-Depression profusion of public discourses about the frontier's social legacies. I locate the frontier within urban modernity by illustrating that dynamics of conflict within mid-century LA texts repeatedly invoke contemporary theorisations of the frontier's socio-spatial characteristics. Time and again in these fictions, intersecting conflicts of race, gender, and class difference are spatialised in ways that deploy the logics of the frontier. In illustrating these 'frontier dynamics', I also depart from the way in which much LA-focused cultural criticism reflects the city's vast scale by approaching its social contestations in terms of inter-neighbourhood difference, instead tracing the frontier's conceptual presence at a micro-level, within the subtlest gradations of fictional space.
Supervisor: Norman, Will ; Stanfield, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PS American literature