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"American Picaresque: The Early Novels
of T. Coraghessan Boyle"
Marc V. Donadieu
This page contains a link to the
doctoral dissertation of Marc V. Donadieu, completed
in 2000 and published, with his
gracious permission, on this web site. It is in
PDF format, and requires Adobe
Acrobat reader, available as a free download from
This dissertation is 219 pages in
its entirety. It takes up 470K.
The Early Novels of T. Coraghessan Boyle" © Copyright 2000 Marc
V. Donadieu. Used with permission of the author.
Some Words to the Reader from
Sandye Utley has generously offered
to place my dissertation, "American Picaresque: The Early Novels of T.
Coraghessan Boyle," on her research website on T. C. Boyle. I feel it is
helpful to write a short preface about the dissertation to explain its
purpose, while acknowledging the frustrations of being limited to formal
English while analyzing Boyle's novels, which gleefully abound with slang.
Since a dissertation is a lengthy piece of academic research that is the
final requirement for a Ph.D., the intended audience is for literary scholars
and graduate students. This stylistic format does not exclude casual Boyle
fans, but these readers may not find the dissertation to their liking,
even though I hope it can be accessible. If I were writing for an audience
of Boyle fans, I would loosen up the language and broaden my focus to include
more recurring themes while exploring Boyle's creativity and intertextuality,
as well as the wonderfully outlandish occurrences which say
so much about contemporary American
Given the limitations of a dissertation,
it is impossible to cover every aspect of Boyle's early
novels. To keep this dissertation
manageable I chose a topic with a prominent presence in Boyle's early novels
-- the picaresque. In the first chapter I briefly explain the elements
of the picaresque novel and its long, complicated history, which sets the
groundwork for analyzing how this genre functions in Boyle's early novels.
The rest of my approach to the dissertation is explained more thoroughly
in the first chapter, which also contains a brief introduction to Boyle
and his place in American picaresque fiction toward the end of the chapter.
This dissertation was written after
a summer and a semester of time consuming research,
followed by another semester of
intensive writing to meet graduation deadlines. I wish I had more time
to let the dissertation settle so I could improve and revise it in minor
ways to clarify and enhance some ideas. I have learned that a dissertation
is only a beginning, not an end, so maybe someday I'll revise it and try
to publish it. Yeah, right. I'll probably climb solo on some dangerous
mountains and live with the bears instead. You may agree or disagree with
what I have written, which if fine, because it means Boyle's work is being
discussed. If you would like to give me any feedback please write to email@example.com.
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Donadieu, Marc Vincent. "American
Picaresque: The Early Novels of T. Coraghessan Boyle." University of Louisiana
at Lafayette, 2000: 219 pp. Degree: Ph. D. Advisor: Dr.
Mary Ann Wilson.
T. Coraghessan Boyle is a contemporary American writer who has published
seven novels and four collections of short stories so far, yet very little
has been written about his work. His early novels use many of the protean
conventions of picaresque fiction: episodic structure, biting social
satire, first-person narration, the themes of alienation, travel,
characters escaping their pasts and reinventing themselves, and frequent
accidents to show the role of fortune in life, all of which are colored
with a late twentieth-century American sensibility. In Water Music
(1980), Budding Prospects (1984),World's End (1987), and The Road
to Wellville (1993) Boyle uses the picaresque genre to generate scathing,
insightful and often humorous observations of human folly, hypocrisy, and
cruelty through a colorful gallery of con-artists, reprobates, social outcasts
and other such antiheroic characters to explore the darker side of human
experiences and the meanings behind them....
to Theses and Dissertations Section
--Sandye Utley, Cincinnati, Ohio
Last Page Update: 23 April 2001