Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

William J. Hardwig

Committee Members

Martin Griffin, Katy L. Chiles


This project combines performance studies and memory studies to the analysis of three of Lee Smith’s southern Appalachian novels in order to open the texts to broader understandings of Smith’s use of oral performance forms, such as ballads, music, and storytelling, in her characters’ transmissions of tradition. The approach draws on performance work by Joseph Roach and collective memory theory by Maurice Halbwachs to create a lens through which to add to existing Smith scholarship centering on feminist readings and women’s authorship. This blended approach allows room to analyze the oral performance forms so central to Smith’s work and their role in her work of transmitting Appalachian cultural memory through multiple family generations. Close readings of murder ballad themes and country music that pervade Smith’s work yields insight into Smith’s negotiation of personal memory, collective memory, and public memory passed down through the malleable forms of song. Chapter 1 probes the importance of audience and listener in Oral History. Chapter 2 analyzes the artistic process of negotiating individual memory with shared memory in Fair and Tender Ladies. Chapter 3 analyzes the role of “roots” and origins in the development of country music as portrayed in The Devil’s Dream. Each of the three chapters takes up a different theme on Smith’s use of performance as a vehicle through which her characters artistically revise cultural memory, recover personal memory, and create public memory.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."