Theses Doctoral

Archival Vagabonds: 20th-Century American Fiction and the Archive in Novelistic Practice

Cloutier, Jean-Christophe

My research explores the interplay between the archival and aesthetic sensibilities of novelists not typically associated with archival practices--Claude McKay, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Jack Kerouac. In juxtaposing their dual roles as public novelists and private archivists, I expose how their literary practices echo with core concepts in archival theory and position the novel as an alternative and superior site of historical preservation. Drawing on my experience as an archivist, I argue that the twentieth-century American novel's concern with inclusivity, preservation and posterity parallels archival science's changing approach to ephemera, arrangement, and diversity. The role of the archive in my work is both methodological and thematic: first, my own research incorporates these authors' cache of research materials, correspondence, drafts, diaries, and aborted or unpublished pieces, obtained during my visits to their various repositories. Second, I extricate the role of the archival in their fictions, and trace how their research, documentation, and classification practices inform their experiments with the novel form. I propose that all these vagabond masters of novelistic craft throw into relief the archive's positivist fallibility while also stressing its creative mutability.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Edwards, Brent Hayes
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 20, 2013