I'm glad I gave all my heart: the fiction of Lee Smith Public Deposited

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Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
Creator
  • Johnson, Danielle N.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
Abstract
  • This dissertation examines Lee Smith's fiction published between 1968 and 2010. By examining Smith's novels and stories together, I trace the progression of her ideas about female subjectivity and the value of self-expression. As Smith develops these ideas, she discusses specific ways that women relate to literacy, artistry, religion, history, and sexuality, among other concerns. Using Smith's publications, book reviews, interviews, and secondary criticism, I analyze her contribution as a writer of contemporary Appalachian and Southern fiction. Smith's first four novels feature protagonists with few options for personal fulfillment, but works published later in her career provide examples of women leading authentic lives. I argue that Smith accomplishes feminist cultural work in her writing by telling the untold stories of unrecognized female artists and questioning dominant historical narratives. She complements this thematic focus with the structure of her novels, which frequently feature multiple first-person narrators, as well as fictionalized historical documents such as diary entries, court records, and song lyrics. Though critics sometimes have treated Smith as a writer of local color and sentimental fiction, the formal innovation and thematic rigor that characterize her publications are deceptively complex.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Gwin, Minrose
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013
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