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Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
By examining fiction and life writing from a cluster of reformers, Jane Addams, Ida B. Wells, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “Beyond the Chicago School: Literature, Gender, and Modernist Sociology in America, 1892-1930” traces the formation of an anti-essentialist modernist sociology. Most criticism addressing connections between American literature and sociology focuses either on late-nineteenth-century sociological utopias or on American naturalist literature in dialogue with the 1920s and 1930s heyday of the Chicago School of Sociology. Concentrating on literature from 1892, when the first American sociology department was founded at the University of Chicago, until 1930, when the founding wave of Chicago sociologists had departed, this interdisciplinary study uncovers a fertile period in which sociological literature, far more so than in the decades immediately preceding or following, challenged and offered an alternative to academic sociology. Like modernists Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, early American academic sociologists sought to bypass social complexity and determine the immutable patterns that supposedly undergird society. Excluded from the process of institutionalizing American sociology, Addams, Wells, Du Bois, and Gilman repurposed modernist literary forms, using them not to discover patterns but instead to reveal the knowledge sociology provides as constructed and to contextualize the experiences of marginalized groups, particularly around issues of gender and race. Beginning with Addams, whose Chicago settlement, Hull-House, served as an alternative to the University of Chicago Department of Sociology, I show how these reformers employed collagist techniques and varied utopian structures to advocate a multi-method sociology focused on improvement over perfection. In turn, I argue that modernism, as a set of literary techniques, an investigation into linguistic representation, and an engagement with turn-of-the-century culture, far exceeded the narrow definitions and conservative politics of the group Lewis referred to as the “Men of 1914.”
Chair and Committee
William J. Maxwell, Vivian Pollak, Rebecca Wanzo, Rafia Zafar,
Class, Claire Marie, "Beyond the Chicago School: Literature, Gender, and Modernist Sociology in America, 1892-1930" (2017). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1249.
Available for download on Friday, August 17, 2029