Football Wishes and Fashion Fair Dreams: Class and the Problem of Upward Mobility in Contemporary U.S. Literature and Culture

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Date

2012

Authors

Appel, Sara Elizabeth

Advisors

Ferraro, Thomas

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Abstract

Through an analysis of contemporary films, novels, comics, and other popular texts, my dissertation argues that upward class mobility, as the progress narrative through which the American Dream has solidified itself in literary and cultural convention, is based on a false logic of "self-made" individualism. The texts I examine tell a new kind of mobility story: one that openly acknowledges the working-class community interdependence underpinning individuals' ability to rise to their accomplishments. My work spotlights distinctly un-rich communities invested in the welfare of their most vulnerable citizens. It also features goal-oriented individuals who recognize the personal impact of this investment as well as the dignity of poor and working-class people from "heartland" Texas to Lower East Side Manhattan. American-exceptionalist stories no longer ring true with popular audiences faced with diminishing access to economic resources and truly democratic political representation. The growing wealth gap between the corporate elite and everyone else has resulted in a healthy mass skepticism toward simplistic narratives of hard work guaranteeing the comforts of a middle-clas life. The archive I have identified displays a fundamental commitment to the social contract that is perhaps the greatest of U.S. working-class values, offering a hopeful vision of collective accountability to readers and viewers struggling to avoid immobilizing debt, foreclosure, and the unemployment line.

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Appel, Sara Elizabeth (2012). Football Wishes and Fashion Fair Dreams: Class and the Problem of Upward Mobility in Contemporary U.S. Literature and Culture. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/5808.

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