Topics: Minimalism, Minimalist music, Short story Pages: 142 (48456 words) Published: March 24, 2013
MINING FOR MEANING: A STUDY OF MINIMALISM IN AMERICAN LITERATURE by JEREMY ROBERT BAILEY, B.A., M.A. A DISSERTATION IN ENGLISH Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Texas Tech University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY


Wendell Aycock Chair of the Committee

Sara Spurgeon

Scott Baugh

Ralph Ferguson Dean of the Graduate School

December 2010

Copyright 2010 Jeremy Robert Bailey

Texas Tech University, Jeremy Robert Bailey, December 2010


I would like to thank my dissertation director, Dr. Wendell Aycock, for the instruction he gave me while a student in his classes and agreeing to work with me on this project. I will forever be grateful for your advice, encouragement and patience. I would also like to thank Dr. Sara Spurgeon, Dr. Bryce Conrad, and Dr. Scott Baugh for their ideas and willingness to serve on my committee. I have appreciated the advice and kind words of many of classmates and friends who have been supportive and excited about this project. Thanks for listening to my ideas and allowing me to vent my frustrations. I would also like to thank Annie, my wonderful wife, for reading my work and putting up with me for the past few years. I look forward to future adventures with you. Finally, I dedicate this dissertation to my children--Taylor, Connor and Ashton.


Texas Tech University, Jeremy Robert Bailey, December 2010


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ABSTRACT LIST OF FIGURES CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION Minimalism in Visual Arts Minimalism in Music Minimalism in Literature Rationale and Methodology II. ERNEST HEMINGWAY’S CONTRIBUTION TO LITERARY MINIMALISM Repetition in “Big Two-Hearted River: Part I” Heavy Dialogue and Ambiguity in “Hills Like White Elephants” III. RAYMOND CARVER: “THE FATHER” OF AMERICAN MINIMALISM A Minimalist Version of the Unreliable Narrator in “So Much Water So Close To Home” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” Silence as a Form of Communication in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love IV. AMY HEMPEL: A CONTEMORARY MASTER OF MINIMALIST FICTION Metafiction and Minimalist Techniques in “What Were the White Things?” Repetition and Ambiguity in “The Annex” iii

ii v vi

1 3 10 11 21

38 45






96 104

Texas Tech University, Jeremy Robert Bailey, December 2010


CORMAC MCCARTHY: A NEW FACE IN AMERICAN MINIMALISM Minimalist Punctuation and “Short, Declarative Sentences” Narration and Dialogue in The Road and The Sunset Limited A Minimalist Version of the Unreliable Narrator in The Crossing







141 160 167




Texas Tech University, Jeremy Robert Bailey, December 2010


This dissertation presents a series of readings that exemplify a wide range of important minimalist techniques in American literature. The study stems from my interest in the works of Cormac McCarthy, and particularly the question of both how and why McCarthy has developed into the highly minimalist author that he is today. My initial plan was to propose a book length study on McCarthy’s latest minimalist works, but my research on other minimalist writers, particularly Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver and Amy Hempel soon revealed that the technique of minimalism, and particularly how minimalist characteristics can influence and heighten a reader’s understanding of a story, should also be examined in this study. I have included a chapter on works by Hemingway to trace the early roots of literary minimalism, and a chapter on Carver to outline many of the important minimalist trademarks found in works written during the highpoint of American minimalism. The chapters on Hempel and McCarthy, two contemporary writers that have published a number of noteworthy minimalist stories in the past few years, bring this study into the present...
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