Date of Award

Spring 5-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Hazlett, John D.

Second Advisor

Steeby, Elizabeth

Third Advisor

Boyd-Rioux, Anne


In spite of its common designation as an outmoded classic of sentimental middlebrow literature, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath remains relevant as a milestone in an extended liminal stage between the failing cultural myths of the past and the founding of newly relevant shared stories. This stage begins with the Enlightenment and continues to present-day conflicts over identity, labor, migrants, notions of truth itself, the function and responsibilities of government, and our shared ecological destiny. Arriving near the end of the Depression and its concurrent economic and environmental disasters, The Grapes of Wrath reflects a particularly chaotic stage in mythological disintegration and regeneration. While critics routinely note the structure of myths within the narrative, they too often fail to note the ways said structures fail, providing for the oppressive tone of the narrative, which ironically leaves space for the rise of new myths.


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