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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.

"American Picaresque: The Early Novels of T. Coraghessan Boyle" © Copyright 2000 Marc V. Donadieu.  Used with permission of the author.

Some Words to the Reader from Marc Donadieu:

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 society.

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


Marc Donadieu.

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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.... 

Back to Theses and Dissertations Section

--Sandye Utley, Cincinnati, Ohio

Last Page Update: 23 April 2001