Date of Award

5-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

David Downing

Second Advisor

Christopher Orchard

Third Advisor

Todd Thompson

Fourth Advisor

Eric Leuschner

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the social and political functions of higher education in the United States by examining three novels, each one engaging key issues in their three respective historical periods. The basic premise of this study is the remarkable growth of the university in the Post-World War II period, especially in the 30-year period from 1945-75 when undergraduate enrollments in the U.S. went from about 2 million to 12 million; today, there are more than 20 million. Yet, in the last 40 years there has been an equally remarkable decline in public funding for higher education. Jeffrey Williams has characterized this as a shift from the welfare state university to the defunded, post-welfare state university. Indeed, higher education in the 21st-century is in crisis. Given these circumstances, it is especially important to gain a clear historical understanding of these changes by gaining a much broader historical perspective of the rise of higher education in the U.S. through influences over the past 100 years. One way to begin that process is by examining some of the widely received literary representations of higher education since the rise of the modern university. Therefore, this dissertation contributes to that project by offering close readings of three key novels, Stover at Yale, Changing Places, and Moo, each one set in a significant period of transformation of higher education. Williams outlines the three periods: 1) the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the rise of the modern university when its institutional organization of disciplinary departments and specialized faculty came into being; 2) the expansion period of the Welfare State University (1945-1975), witnessing the massive growth of higher education in the U.S.; and, 3) over the last 40 years the restructuring of higher education leading to the Post-Welfare State University (1975--2018). My basic theoretical orientation will draw upon New Historicism, Cultural Materialism, and Critical University Studies because they situate the texts within their socio-historical contexts within the political economy.

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