Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Cheryl A. Wilson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan I. Gatti, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Ronald Emerick, Ph.D.


This dissertation examines an emergent subgenre of Gothic fiction geographically situated in the Rust Belt region of the United States related to anxieties stemming from the socioeconomic conditions of the area. The novels examined are Stewart O’Nan’s Snow Angels, Tawni O’Dell’s Back Roads and Coal Run, Russell Banks’s Affliction, and Richard Russo’s Empire Falls. The Gothic is a mutable genre that transforms itself and manifests in new contexts when social anxieties arise and need to be addressed. Each of these novels deals with Rust Belt anxieties related to landscapes being ruined by the presence of abandoned mines and rusting factories, to a depressed economic climate that offers no hope for financial security, and to challenged or diminished masculinity. These are the themes that identify Rust Belt Gothic Fiction, while it still maintains older Gothic tropes concerning mortality and death. Although this subgenre is currently under examined, the socioeconomic conditions that caused its appearance have only gotten worse, meaning there is more Rust Belt Gothic to come.