Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
While the city is a common topic in American literature, if you were to Google “Pittsburgh literature,” chances are, rather than finding a list of stories about the Steel City, you would be linked to the Carnegie Library or the University of Pittsburgh. Inspired by its lack of attention, I have directed my efforts toward making a case for Pittsburgh’s modest yet significant role in American literature, particularly during its “postwar” period. The “postwar” sequence of events that occur between the city’s industrial prime following World War II and its transformation into an academic and cultural center for medicine and technology upon the decline of its steel industry in the nineteen eighties, is in short, an American story of survival. Two American writers, both previous residents of Pittsburgh, significantly portray their narratives of duality, detachment, and identity in congruence with the city’s urban landscape. By identifying Pittsburgh's presence in Annie Dillard’s post-World War II memoir, An American Childhood (1989) and in Michael Chabon’s modern fiction novel, Wonder Boys (1995), I intend to emphasize the parallels between the characters and their city. Specifically, I will discuss the way in which Pittsburgh’s postwar story is reflected in the lives of the characters through a consistent theme of duality, in which detachment is required in order to redefine identity. By illuminating the parallels between the characters’ duality and the city’s postwar urban transformation, I hope to secure the notion that few writers have conveyed in literature—the American search for identity is embodied in the story of Pittsburgh’s renaissance.
Knight, Genna Elizabeth, "Steeltown Roots : Duality, Detachment, and the Search for Identity in Postwar Pittsburgh Literature" (2007). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 1182.