Bildung, bildungsroman, appalachia, john fox jr., the little shepherd of kingdom come, progressive era, kentucky, american civil war, civil war, southern literature, appalachian literature, coming of age


The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come takes as its backdrop the American Civil War, as the author, John Fox, Jr., champions Kentucky's social development during the Progressive Era. Although often criticized for capitalizing on his propagation of regional stereotypes, I argue that the structure of The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come is much more problematic than that. Recognizing the Bildungsroman as a vehicle for cultural and social critique in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century writing, this project offers an in-depth literary analysis of John Fox, Jr.'s novel, The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, in which I contend the story itself is, in fact, an impassioned account of human progress that juxtaposes civilized Bluegrass society and the degraded culture of the southern mountaineer. Indicative of the Progressive Era scientific attitude toward social and cultural evolution, Fox creates a narrative that advances his theory of southern evolution in which southern mountaineers are directed away from their own culturally inferior notions of development and towards a sense of duty to adapt to the civility of Bluegrass culture. This study focuses briefly on defining the Bildungsroman as a genre, from its eighteenth-century German origins to its influence on the American literary tradition. Beginning with Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre, the Bildungsroman, in its most traditional form, narrates the development of the protagonist's mind and character from childhood to adulthood. Focus will be placed on how the Bildungsroman engages with literature's ability to facilitate the relationship between an individual and social development, as well as how easily the Bildungsroman lends itself to being appropriated and reconfigured. This study will then demonstrate how The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, Fox's local-color narrative, in its focus on the growth of the protagonist, Chad, as an allegory of the development of an Appalachian identity during the Progressive Era, might usefully be understood as an Appalachian Bildungsroman. While Chad, ultimately acquires the polished savoir faire of a skilled Bluegrass gentleman, the tensions between the southern mountaineers and the Bluegrass bourgeois makes his socialization into any one culture impossible, a situation illustrative of the disparity between Appalachia and the rest of America during the Progressive Era. By adapting the Bildungsroman to represent this historical situation, Fox's novel demonstrates the kind of conflict that furthered Appalachian difference as point of contention for the problematic ideals of social and cultural evolution, thus, indicating the need for reconciling Appalachia's marginal position.


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Graduation Date





Meehan, Kevin


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Graduate Studies

Degree Program

Interdisciplinary Studies








Release Date

December 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Graduate Studies; Graduate Studies -- Dissertations, Academic