Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Sonstegard, Adam

Subject Headings

Agee, James, 1909-1955. Death in the family, Agee, James, 1909-1955 -- Criticism and interpretation, James Agee, original and restored versions of a death in the family


James Agee's A Death in the Family, the semiautobiographical book chronicling the death of a young boy's father in 1916, was published postumously in 1957, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Literature the following year. The book was nearly complete at the time of the author's death in 1955, and for nearly half a century editor David McDowell's version of the book was the accepted one. Throughout the intervening years, critics took note of the myriad shortcomings of this edition. Mcdowell's edition utilizes a previously published sketch, "Knoxville: Summer 1915," as the prologue and presents events out of sequence in a truncated form reliant upon earlier versions of the manuscript. Written clues left by Agee clearly indicate this is not what he intended, and in 2007, Michael A. Lofaro, after several years of extensive effort, published the expanded and chronologically ordered version of A Death in the Family utilizing a piece entitled "Dream Sequence" as its prologue. This version of the text is much more in line with Agee's desires for his book and remedies issues of cohesion and thematic/character development problematic in the earlier text. A Death in the Family is the culmination of James Agee's writings, much of which dealt with the death of his father, and although subjective in nature, is the most effective in assisting Agee in coming to terms with his loss and providing a lasting memorial to his father