Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
In his 1986 book America, Baudrillard noted that “the most banal suburb…is more at the centre of the world than any of the cultural manifestations of old Europe.” My thesis argues that this monumental shift from the suburbs as enclaves at the outer edges of cultural urban centers to “the centre of the world” is at the heart of Richard Ford’s realist project in his Pulitzer Prize winning Bascombe series starting with The Sportswriter in 1986. Emergent twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature scholars have been interested in the schism between the fictionalized representation and the lived experience of suburbia — while suburban life remains the dominant mode of dwelling in the United States, the suburban imaginary overwhelmingly condemns it as a predominately white middle-class experience, and as a place which is marked by emptiness, ennui, and rote social reproduction. I argue that Ford’s fictional subject Frank Bascombe, throughout the Bascombe series, acts to animate the changing and more complex relationality between suburban and urban landscapes toward the millennium as modernization and globalization bring the new capitalism, engendering what some scholars have called the “postsuburban” landscape. I close my argument with an exploration of how Ford not only explores this new polymorphous (post)suburbia through Frank Bascombe, but also of how the character exhibits Ford’s own idiosyncratic philosophy of language and Emersonian pragmatism which allow him to unironically represent suburban life and its more generative possibilities.
Gorton, John, "Triumph in the Suburbs: Richard Ford and the Spaces of New Capitalism" (2022). All Theses. 3954.
Available for download on Sunday, December 31, 2023