Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

English

Major Professor

Dr. Bill Hardwig

Committee Members

Dr. Tom Haddox, Dr. Laura Howes

Abstract

Appalachian author and critic Jim Wayne Miller has cited the literature of Appalachia as being, above all, earthly. While often referencing ties to a "spiritual" world, this world is strictly separate from the earthly. This causes Appalachian literature, in Miller's estimation, to be "rooted" in the world. However, by looking at three novelists in and around the Appalachian region--Charles Frazier, Lee Smith, and Wendell Berry--we can see where Miller's assertions fall short in relation to contemporary fiction. While the works of these novelists might fit Miller's description of "rootedness," it is their rootedness which causes these novels and the characters in them to interact with and explore the spiritual. Through their works, all three authors highlight the complex relationship between the "worldly" and the "otherworldly." In so doing, the two are brought into relation, and literature, instead, becomes a meeting ground for investigating the ways in which these distinct spheres relate and interconnect.

In Cold Mountain, Saving Grace, and Jayber Crow, Frazier, Smith, and Berry explore the tensions between the spiritual and the physical through their concerns with place. Focusing on Edward Casey's critical work on place and its intersection with the work of several Christian theologians, we can see the differing ways in which these authors navigate and come to terms with the relationship between the "worldly" and the "otherworldly." Through their novels, these three authors also explore the various dimensions of place as the site of interaction and reconciliation for these two divided concepts. These various dimensions are united through the stressed role of human interaction in relation to place: interaction with landscape, homeplace, community, and the natural world.

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