Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

Robert H. Brinkmeyer, Jr.

Second Advisor

Brian Glavey


This project argues for the relatedness of the authorial desire for textual self-representation visible in many works of American modernist fiction and the modern myth of the self-made man. I contend that the historical and cultural forces which shaped both phenomena in the latter half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries are not incidental but integral to the modern understanding of America. I also contend that these phenomena are the products of a particular historical anxiety about male gender identity and its relation to biological futurity. Specifically, American authors are wrestling with the implications of male-centered views of cultural reproduction, including the myth of the "self-made" man, by using their fiction to seek out an exclusively-male model for how creativity and textual authority function. The failures which haunt these attempts in American modernist fiction--the persistent failures of American fathers, the destructive and deformed portraits of male-female gender relations, the legacy of dead and unborn children--all stem from and gesture back towards an irreconcilable, phallogocentric vision of American fiction.