Absent-Minded Forms: Academic Novels, American Meritocracy, and Other Educational Fictions
Findeisen, Christopher M
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This dissertation is study of the emergence and proliferation of the American academic novel since the 19th century. I investigate two simultaneous lines of inquiry. First, I consider the social conditions that presided over the birth of the academic novel genre during the last decades of the 19th century. Like all genres, the academic novel emerged as a recognizable literary form in response to specific political and economic conditions, particularly a growing sense that a “good-for-nothing” college education could serve some greater social purpose, above and beyond what it might to for individuals. Second, I inquire into the ideological need to repeat these generic structures in a world where that same condition has long since passed. Indeed, I argue there is an acute ideological need for academic novel to proliferate in a world in which the material rewards of higher education have subsumed the institution entirely.