Making Fante one of the boys (and girls) : the cyclical structure of Ask the dust and how it argues for John Fante's acceptance into the American literary canon.
This thesis offers a rereading of John Fante’s most read novel, Ask the Dust (1939) by recognizing, tracing and analyzing the work as having a cyclical narrative structure. Working primarily in opposition to previous Fante scholarship, which reads Ask the Dust as structured linearly, the thesis argues that the structure of Fante’s work is comprised of three narrative cycles, themselves each comprised of mounting frustration that culminates in an act of violence, which in turn sparks a moment of reflection that is ultimately interrupted by renewed possibility of the novel’s main character’s acceptance into the mainstream American culture of 1930s Los Angeles. This new reading reveals the depth and complexity of a novel that has been largely forgotten and certainly ignored by the American literary canon. For example, through its analysis of the narrative cycles, the thesis refuses the idea that the early pages of the novel create an evolving plot; reveals and emphasizes the importance of the character of Vera Rivken; reveals Arturo’s erasure of his ethnic past; and ultimately finds Arturo to belong to a lesser extent at the novel’s end than at its beginning. Finally, this thesis argues for the recognition of Ask the Dust as a complete and complex work of American fiction and in doing so calls for “ethnic literature,” such as the Italian-American literature Ask the Dust represents, to be reconceptualized as the work of American literature it truly is. This thesis hopes to situate Ask the Dust in Italian-American literary history as well as in the field of American literature, and argues that it should be read as belonging to both traditions.
Show FileMIME type:application/pdf