Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 1-1-2017


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Greg Barnhisel

Committee Member

Jeff Williams

Committee Member

Magali Cornier Michael


Academic Novels, Critical University Studies, Culture Wars, Political Correctness, History of English Studies, Adjunct Novels, Theory Novels, PC Novels


The “new academic novel” emerged in the 1980s as what had previously been a cloistered, insular genre began to engage much more directly with the social and political import of universities and the people who work in them. I argue that an important strand of this development centres on a group of novels that through their depiction of recent developments in academia—the threat of political correctness, the so-called theory wars, the growth of contingent labour, and the elevation of a corporate logic above educational concerns—document the emergence of neoliberalism as the dominant logic of American higher education and the American university’s transition away from its place within the post-WWII welfare state to the corporate university of today. Drawing out the connections between the university specific events (the collapse of the academic job market in the humanities, the casualization of academic labour, and the privatization of public higher education) that informed these developments and the broader systemic issues to which they are related, like the rise of the gig economy and the transition to post-Fordism, I read these novels as demonstrating the use of neoliberal policies to pursue a new form of higher education that would better serve the needs of a neoliberal state. Ultimately, I suggest that these novels’ registering of otherwise hidden bureaucratic aspects of the professorial experience in the corporate university can counter the nostalgic fantasies of the post-WWII university that perpetuate neoliberalism’s hold and offer a way to reimagine American higher education’s purpose and function.