Type of Document Dissertation Author Brooks, Tiffany Yecke URN etd-04032007-162913 Title Ready-Made Stories: The Rhetorical Function of Myths and Lore Cycles as Agents of Social Commentary Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title W. T. Lhamon Committee Chair John Fenstermaker Committee Member Nancy Warren Committee Member Nicole Kelley Committee Member Keywords
- lore cycle
- American literature
- Jack Sheppard
- T.D. Rice
- textual change
- textual evolution
Date of Defense 2007-03-19 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis study is a two-part examination into the various ways that English and American cultures reclaim particular stories or images for the sake of social, political, or economic commentary. I explore the manner in which maturing societies create transitional rhetorics by reforming earlier myths and how specific stories, images, or icons function as "carriers" of cultural themes, crucial values, memories, ideals, and anxieties.
The first section, entitled "The Genesis Complex," examines three specific myths from Genesis that modern authors purposefully refigured to shape issues in the current cultural context. I introduce each textual theme by examining its reception history and the manner in which interpretations have accumulated meaning from each myth. My primary discussions are Charlotte Bronte’s /Jane Eyre/ and the myth of the fallen woman; Willa Cather’s /O Pioneers!/ and the myth of American Eden; and John Steinbeck’s /East of Eden/ and Arthur Miller’s /Death of a Salesman/ paired with the myth of Cain and Abel as economic competitors.
The second section of Ready-Made Stories, entitled "Adaptations and Negotiations," examines two lore cycles – that is, iconographic elements or gestures that emerge and re-emerge in certain contexts. The first is that of Cain, as we see bits of his character connected with medieval monsters and the eventual invention of Shakespeare’s monster-man Caliban, as well as Trans-Atlantic blackface performances in the nineteenth century. The second lore cycle we examine is that of Jack Sheppard as he progresses from a proletariat hero to a popular character of novel, stage, and modern music.
Ready-Made Stories thus scrutinizes the specifics of cultural adaptation and textual evolution. These ready-made stories stand not as testaments to the archetypal memory of culture, but as reminders of the inherent contradiction and backwards glances of cultural production. In essence, we see both how and why very much of the old consciously and purposely sustains the new.
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