City at a Crossroads: Boston in Literature and Film Open Access

Merlin, Ross John (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/t435gd859?locale=en
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Abstract

Boston has captured the imagination of authors for centuries. This fascination has led to many portrayals of the city and its inhabitants in literature. Through the course of history, the city has changed. Boston was once the bastion of white, working-class culture in the United States. Over the past 50 years, however, the city has witnessed a drastic shift in its racial demographics. Boston is now much closer to a multicultural metropolis. Authors and filmmakers depicting Boston struggle with how to reconcile these two images of Boston. Many come to a crossroads wherein they must decide which Boston to present to their audiences. These narratives set in Boston parallel the city's place at a crossroads. Throughout the novels On Beauty by Zadie Smith, Caucasia by Danzy Senna, and Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane (and its film adaptation directed by Ben Affleck), characters come to numerous crossroads. In these moments, characters must determine which path to go down. These crossroads often deal with performance of social identities, related to the work of Erving Goffman. This thesis demonstrates the prevalence of the crossroads theme in literature representing Boston, in light of the city's place at a crossroads, based on sociological theory and research.

Table of Contents

Introduction........................................................................................................................2

Chapter 1: Complexion.......................................................................................................13

Chapter 2: Racial Runaway..................................................................................................31

Chapter 3: Dorchestah, Race, Class, and Religion...................................................................46

Conclusion........................................................................................................................65

Works Cited......................................................................................................................68

Films Cited.......................................................................................................................70

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