Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in English



First Advisor

Jay D. Watson

Second Advisor

Ted Ownby

Third Advisor

Deborah Barker

Relational Format



New modernist studies has opened wide the discussion about what modernism means, when it begins, and, compellingly for the purposes of this project, where it occurs. Exploring intersections between modernization, modernism, labor, and segregation in the agricultural South, this dissertation demonstrates how the effects of nascent industrialization, emergent technologies, and "modern" thought are animated by figures and spaces associated with--or performing--versions of rurality. The project is divided into three major sections. In the first, I suggest that the contradictions of African American life in the post-Reconstruction world are parsed in the period's literature through the presence of a veiled georgic mode, a tendency I explore in the writing of W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Frances F. W. Harper. In the second section, I propose two categories of agrarians: "leisure agrarians" such as the Twelve Southerners and Helen and Scott Nearing, figures who stage their protests of industrialized capitalism in writing from positions of relative privilege, and "labor agrarians," who come from an agricultural underclass of sharecroppers and tenant farmers. These latter form a more diverse group--including women, people of color, and children--and their protests of the capitalist status quo take the form of uniquely embodied discourse. In the final section, I propose a category called "migratory modernism," and use it to theorize narratives of movement and migration in the early twentieth century. Throughout this section, I read work by Charlie Poole, Zora Neale Hurston, Rudolph Fisher, William Faulkner, and Ellen Glasgow in order to evaluate the migrant's role as a useful metaphor for the modernist condition of the self-divided-against-the-self.



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