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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Hotel Publics: Space, Hospitality, and U.S. Literature, 1893-2010
by Tirapelle, Grace Alyce, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2013, 273; 3627227
Abstract (Summary)

This study constructs a history of hotels in literature of the long twentieth century, tracking the developments from the luxury hotel as a product of capital accumulation in the late nineteenth century to the abstraction of hotel spaces as financial instruments in the circulation of global capital at the end of the twentieth. Taking space as its theoretical category of analysis, the project analyzes how the commercial, social, and political functions of the hotel both reflect and construct ideas about hospitality and public domesticity. By representing the hotel as a site in which capitalist flows produce mixtures, discord, and productive and affective affiliations among bodies, literature raises a set of questions about forms of public domesticity: the hotel commercializes the sphere of intimate relations and leaves home spaces more accessible to the reaches of moral surveillance and state power even as the ‘hotel’ assumes and constructs a particular organization and disciplinary structure for the control of bodies and literary genres, and delimits the bounds of normative and transgressive social behaviors. By tracing the shifting function of what I call ‘hotel publics‘ in United States literature from 1893 to 2010, I argue that the hotel functions as a metonym for various conceptions of US space—luxury, work, domestic, and capitalist—at scales ranging from the body to the globe.

Chapter 1 examines representations of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel as a Gilded Age luxury space. I argue that texts including Henry James’ The American Scene and Langston Hughes’ "Come to the Waldorf Astoria" produce critiques of the ways that classed behaviors were unevenly inscribed in the hotel's labyrinthine space. In Chapter 2, I focus on the repurposing of run-down luxury hotels as working spaces and urban homes in Depression-era Los Angeles. I examine the hotel in proletarian fictions as an access point for the middle-class writer and his subject and as a contact zone that reveals the changing racial landscape of interwar Los Angeles. Chapters 3 and 4 focus on different ways in which the financialization of capital affected hotel domesticity. Chapter 3 examines postwar literature by John Irving, Vladimir Nabokov, and John Irving that depicts hotels as domestic spaces in which subjects escaped and challenged Cold War domestic and foreign policies of containment associated with the suburban home. The processes of domestication in these spaces defied the moral surveillance enacted by the Holiday Inn, the first standardized motel chain. Chapter 4 reveals, however, the uneven ability of bodies to escape forms of social control. I focus on representations of the struggle to save San Francisco's International Hotel from 1968-1977, placing the focus on Karen Tei Yamashita's 2010 novel, I Hotel, which I argue shows how the city of San Francisco depicted as economic progress – for the expansion of San Francisco's financial district into a West Coast Wall Street – the ethical injustice of denying low-income housing to elderly members of its Asian American population.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hsu, Hsuan L.
Commitee: Jerng, Mark C., Watkins, Evan
School: University of California, Davis
Department: English
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Literature, History, American literature
Keywords: Domesticity, Home, Hospitality, Hotel, Publics, Space
Publication Number: 3627227
ISBN: 978-1-321-02367-1
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