Date of Graduation

7-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

M. Keith Booker

Committee Member

Lisa Hinrichsen

Second Committee Member

Susan Marren

Abstract

I propose to show in this study how Jewish-American authors of mass media immigrant works from the first three decades of the 20th century utilize a form of modernist cosmopolitan aesthetics to challenge notions that these works are unworthy of study and appreciation. These authors, not happy with the classifications and aesthetics available to them as immigrant authors, borrow from other ideologies and aesthetic schools to create an aesthetic system meeting the needs of immigrant individuals. In theory, this system, which I have termed 'immigrant cosmopolitanism,' meets the needs of these individuals and capitalizes on the authors' diverse backgrounds and experiences. Only these authors can decide which aesthetics adequately relate their story, and they believe immigrant cosmopolitanism will give them the freedom to tell their stories in a way previously denied them. However, they find that no pure aesthetic, cosmopolitan, modernist, or otherwise, can fully convey their stories.

Pure modernist cosmopolitanism leaves little room for the integration of those ethnic details and personal experiences necessary for these texts to function successfully as immigrant novels. Therefore, these authors intend to find an aesthetic allowing them to tell their individual immigrant stories in a way highlighting their intellectualism and artistry. Immigrant cosmopolitanism allows them to relate their stories in the manner they desire and in a way representing immigrant lives: it is a hybrid of popular and intellectual, artistic and commodified, hopeful and cynical, and it ultimately fails to accomplish its goals (just as these Jewish-American immigrant authors fail in their attempts to be seen as something more than just immigrant authors).

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