Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Daniel W Smith

Committee Member 1

William L McBride

Committee Member 2

John N Duvall

Committee Member 3

Elena Coda

Committee Member 4

Daniel R Kelly


The dissertation develops an original ontology of place by reading Modernist literature (1864-1950) as a critical reaction to Modern philosophy (1641-1800), and builds a platform upon movements implicit in literature from which future metaphysical and epistemological inquiries can begin. Western metaphysics and epistemology have been conditioned by the Cartesian commitment to the ego cogito, primarily understood as a subject to which the world appears as represented in concepts or ideas. The postmodern and deconstructive criticisms of such philosophical foundations – and indeed, on the very notion of foundation itself – have become well worn, but have failed to offer a viable alternative, everywhere heralding the “end of metaphysics” while simultaneously carrying on metaphysical discourse as if unaware of their own dictum! Being and Literature: The Disclosure of Place in Modernity offers the ontology of place as an alternative to postmodern anti-realism, showing that Modernist literature prefigures the postmodern critical project and implicitly leads the way toward an ontology of place that would de-center the cogito subject from the heart of Western metaphysics and epistemology. We avoid anti-realism through the reading of Modernism, while developing the alternative placial ontology capable of responding the weaknesses of postmodern anti-realism.