AuthorHepworth, James Ralph.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation reads Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose by combining objective and subjective critical approaches in an attempt to bridge the gap between storytelling understood formalistically and story in its moving immediacy. The study combines a close textual analysis of the novel with a detailed and extensive account of the critic's personal and emotional responses to it, and these two interpretive perspectives are supplemented by a series of three interviews conducted with the novelist over a period of ten years as well as by an exchange of letters between Stegner and Bernard DeVoto just prior to the publication of Stegner's Beyond the Hundredth Meridian (1951-1953). The study opens with a survey of Stegner's career and argues that his critics have misperceived him as a "regionalist" and undervalued him as a world-class American writer whose work transcends the limitations of place. The ensuing chapters focus on the relationship between the journal form of Angle of Repose and the westering tradition in American letters and on the way the novel situates itself in relation to native American aesthetics and the oral tradition. The burden of these early chapters is to demonstrate that the form of Stegner's novel is symbolic, not only in the formal sense of standing for something other than itself but also in the more subjective sense of figuring the emotional rhythms that it generates in the reader. Later chapters examine in detail the relations between the personal and emotional life of the critic and such technical and thematic issues as unreliable narrator, the Doppelganger motif, and the problems of origins and originality in American fiction. Taken together, the individual chapters are designed to show that Stegner is a postmodern storyteller with postmodern concerns, that he has, in fact, created Angle of Repose as a "counter-subversive novel" by employing the techniques of the so-called "chaos drunk writers" of the 1970's against themselves to produce a work of art that is at once highly original and self-consciously traditional.