Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Picaresque literature, American; Burroughs, Stephen, 1765-1840. Memoirs of the notorious Stephen Burroughs; Melville, Herman, 1819-1891. Confidence-man; Twain, Mark, 1835-1910. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;


The picaresque is a literary genre with a long and rich history. Although protean in nature, it is essentially the fictional autobiography of a likeable delinquent or rogue, who survives a series of adventures and a life of hardships by his or her wits and affinity for trickery. Stemming from a long line of tropes dating back to Greek mythology, the picaresque comes into its own fruition towards the end of the Spanish Golden Age with the anonymous publication of Lazarillo de Tormes (1554). Since then, the antihero of the picaresque, the picaro, has become a literary figure across a vast geography; however, there has been relatively little scholarly work devoted to the study of the strictly American picaro. The earliest contributions to the American picaresque tradition are highly rhetorical and sociopolitical. American authors such as Stephen Burroughs, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain have employed the picaresque in newly political and hermeneutical ways that expand the genre into new territory. I pay particular interest to how each author responds to previous texts and how each employs aspects of American culture and ideology to create something entirely new. Thus, this thesis is a close reading of the Memoirs of the Notorious Stephen Burroughs, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade, and Huckleberry Finn by the aforementioned American authors. In what ways do American concepts of freedom, patriotism, and equality conflict with criminality, capitalism, and culture?

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Julie Husband

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vi, 107 pages)



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