Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Michael Trask


Scholars over the past two decades (Denning, Szalay, Edmunds, Robbins) have theorized the different ways literature of the Mid-Twentieth Century reflects the dawn of the liberal US welfare state. While these studies elaborate on the effect rapidly expanding public aid had on literary production of the period, many have tended to undervalue the lingering influence on midcentury storytelling of private charity and philanthropy, those traditional aid institutions fundamentally challenged by the Great Depression and historically championed by conservatives. If the welfare state had an indelible impact on US literatures, so did the moral complexity of the systems of charity and philanthropy it purportedly replaced. In my dissertation, I theorize modern charity as a cultural narrative that found expression in a number of different writers from the start of the Great Depression and into the early 1960s, including Harold Gray, Ralph Ellison, W.E.B. Du Bois, Flannery O'Connor, and Dorothy Day.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)