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The School of Stegner: Settler Colonialism and Academic Creative Writing at Postwar Stanford
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This dissertation examines the relationship between settler colonialism and academic creative writing by taking as a case study the program founded at Stanford by the writer Wallace Stegner. Founded in 1946, the Stanford program was among the first to offer university training and teaching opportunities for creative writers. The program attracted an impressive roster of acclaimed writers—many whose backgrounds resembled Stegner’s own origins in a white working-class, settler family, and many who shared his interests in regional identity and nature writing. Because the new discipline of creative writing espoused literary modernism’s commitment to self-reflexivity, these writers frequently wrote upon the meanings and legacies of settler colonialism as they reflected on their personal experiences and contextualized their stories within US history and within creative writing’s emergent disciplinary identity. Read together, I argue the authors I consider here constellate to demonstrate the discursive range of postfrontier US settler colonialism in the mid- to late-twentieth century. Each chapter compares two writers from the Stanford program to demonstrate the literary relevance of settler colonialism on such issues as patriarchy, femininity, racism, and sense of place. This study brings settler colonial studies and American literary history into dialog to bring nuance into settler colonial studies’ treatments of literary representation and to place academic creative writing in the longer historical context provided by a view of settler invasion as a structure that perpetuates itself into the present.