Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Richard Fine

Second Advisor

Eric Garberson

Third Advisor

Emilie Raymond

Fourth Advisor

Oliver Speck


Authorship is not merely an act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard; it is a social identity performance that includes the use of multiple media. Authors must be hyper- visible to cut through the dearth of information, entertainment options, and personae vying for attention in our supersaturated media environment. As they enter the literary world, writers consciously create characters and narratives around themselves, and through the consistent and believable enactment of these features, authors are born. In this dissertation, I analyze the performance of authorship in U.S. literary culture through an interdisciplinary framework. My work pulls from authorship studies, performance studies, celebrity/persona studies, and sociological studies of art to uncover how writers create and disseminate their authorial identities. The writers used in this project embody four types of authorial identity: Jonathan Franzen as the professional artist, David Foster Wallace as the Romantic genius, Tao Lin as the digital eccentric, and Roxane Gay as the Intersectional Feminist. These writers flirt with popular recognition, but they remain tied firmly to the serious, or in a Bourdieuvian sense, restricted area of cultural production. As my case studies progress, I highlight how print, audio/visual, and digital media are used or not used by these writers as sites for their performances. I claim that as writers develop their characters on such digital platforms as Twitter and Tumblr that they are more accepting of the validity of digital authorship. However, this acceptance is diminished by the dominant role print media have in the conceptions of authorship. The varying ways literary tradition, media, and celebrity intersect are brought to the forefront in these examples, shedding light on the need for larger conceptions of authorship in the literary world. My interpretation of authorship as social identity performance broadens a relatively restrictive and, in many ways, stagnant area, adding nuance to how literary culture actively works to maintain and dilute the value of one of its most prominent features.


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