Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard Wilber, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Victor Peppard, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Silvio Gaggi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joseph Moxley, Ph.D.


Oral literature, Mediatized literature, Film, Book clubs, Radio, Literary aesthetics


The 1990s saw a climax of literature representations in what Ong called the secondary orality, particularly in film, television, and radio; for instance, the film industry produced a number of adaptations of novels that had been accepted into the American literary canon, while television and radio marketed literature through book clubs and literary shows. All these literary productions mediated through film, radio, and television are referred to in this study as mediatized literature.

The argument of this dissertation is that 1990s U.S. mediatized literature constitutes a post-modern re-enactment of the traditional oral literature that initially emerged on U.S. territory with pre-literate populations. In support of this thesis, chapter 1 presents the features of the oral traditions of four ethnic groups, while subsequent chapters feature an application of these characteristics, or variations thereof, to literary discourses from film, television, and radio. There is a structural correlation between the oral tradition of the four ethnic groups presented in chapter 1 -- Native-American, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian -- and some of the movie adaptations discussed in chapters 2 and 3 that are based on fiction representing the same ethnic groups (Beloved for the African-American mediatized literature, The Mambo Kings for the Hispanic one, etc.). While analyzing the features common to both the oral tradition and the mediatized literature, this study makes use of four variables (authorship, audience, literary product, and literary aesthetics) and of a complex critical apparatus that includes theories of the linguistic sign, the Bakhtinian dialogic system, the Jungian concept of the collective unconsciousness, Bolter’s concept of remediation, etc.

Throughout this dissertation, I will argue that, in spite of the Ongian condescension vis-à-vis oral cultural messages as inferior to the written ones, and contrary to Postmanian media apprehensions and Franzenian inertia toward mediatized literature, both oral and mediatized literary messages can be classified as literature, although they may not always follow traditional aesthetic parameters embraced by canonical written literature. Chapter 5 of this dissertation presents some of the major points of the current conversation related to the acceptance of mediatized literature and of the oral tradition into the category of literature and to the complex socio-economic and literary implications of the dissemination of literature through mass media.