Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

David Downing, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lingyan Yang, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Thomas Slater, Ph.D.


This project studies the patterns of two parallel narratives (traditional vs. marginalized student perspectives) in the literary genre of campus novels in three representative periods over the 20th Century to understand how shifts in higher education over that time period have affected American academics and culture and how students’ experiences in higher education, as a rite of passage into society, have also shifted. Using campus novels of both the master narrative and of marginalized cultures and in applying the theorists of Critical University Studies, this project presents the major changes in academia over the 20th century through the scope of literary study, thereby correlating the production and interpretation of the American campus novel with the particular, dynamic experiences of students.

The project makes use of three distinct eras of higher education in The United States during the 20th century, as posited by Critical University Studies Theorists: The Pre-Golden Age (1900-1945), the Golden Age (1945-1975), and the Post-Golden Age (1975-present). Critical University Theorists are central to this portion of the discussion and include: Bill Readings, Jeffrey J. Williams, Christopher Newfield, Marc Bousquet, and Henry A. Giroux.

Campus novels are essential to this study as they allegorically illustrate the experience of the student while attending college. The shifts in higher education over the 20th century are emphasized in the experiences of the protagonist students and can be shown to affect their passage into the post-collegiate world. Therefore, performing a close study of a range of texts from throughout the century, split between the two parallel narratives, gives a clear picture of the correlation between the shifting eras of the 20th century and student experiences. Literary authors include: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ralph Ellison, Shirley Jackson, and others.