Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Timothy Erwin

Number of Pages



The picaresque has been considered a narrow and historically closed genre, limited to a few examples, as well as a wide and flexible genre inclusive of any number of narratives. As an alternative, I propose that it should be seen as a dynamic form, conserving certain historic characteristics, but also adapting to newly current, mostly social, concerns by reconfiguring form and content. Through its double structure it incorporates inconsistencies and controversies, remaining culturally relevant. In the following chapters I have redefined the picaresque elements of two well-known British picaresque novels, added another picaresque novel to the canon, and qualified two others, taking siglo-de-oro Spain for my point of departure. In my final chapter I argue for the continuing relevance of the genre by showing how it reappears in postmodern Germany through Thomas Brussig's Heroes Like Us; Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, John le Brun by Richard Cross, and Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett are picaresque on the dynamic view, their picaresque characteristics being modified to express period thought. These works conserve the historic ambivalent form and the duality of content. While all three novels attempt to resolve status inconsistency, their solutions are variously flawed. In each of them one aspect gives especially interesting insight into cultural developments: in Moll Flanders the relation of signified to signifier, in John le Brun the development towards a class society, and in Roderick Random a change in narrative concepts, all illustrate epistemic shifts. Meanwhile, not all picaresque novels are so rewarding to the critic because some, like the anonymous Frank Hammond, employ picaresque features without adapting them to contemporary conventions and circumstances. Other novels such as Edward Kimber's Joe Thompson follow the picaresque format only in part, either as generic hybrids or lacking cultural import consistent with the picaresque novel; The picaresque novel reconfigures various social and cultural discourses with traditional as well as emergent elements. As a sub-genre, the picaresque shares elements with the novel, and it is precisely in the adaptation of generic features that it may be understood as a hitherto undervalued stepping stone in the development of the modern novel.


Cross, Richard; Defoe, Daniel; Dynamic; Defoe, Daniel; England; English Fiction--18th Century; England; English Fiction--18th Century; Fictions; History And Criticism; History And Criticism; Kimber, Edward; Kimber, Edward; Literature And Society; Literature And Society; Novel; Picaresque; Picaresque Literature; Picaresque Literature; Smollett, Tobias; Spain; Spanish Fiction--classical Period; Study; Smollett, Tobias; Spain; Spanish Fiction--classical Period; Wayward

Controlled Subject

British literature; English literature--Irish authors; Irish literature; German literature; Romance-language literature

File Format


File Size

4587.52 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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