Date of Award

August 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Liam Callanan

Committee Members

George Clark, Michael Wilson, Jason Puskar, Patricia Richards


Coal Mining, Guitar, Indiana, Pike County, Rural Literature, Trauma


We Eat This Gold is a novel set in a small coal mining community in southwestern Indiana. Centered around a son's return to his father's house after a failed music career in Nashville, the novel explores the subtle social structures of rural America, the slow decline of modern coal communities, and the often oversimplified beliefs, worries, and biases found in small towns. It also seeks to provide a realistic portrayal of the inner workings and broader culture of an active underground coal mine, as well as explore the ramifications, both economic and psychological, of serious workplace injuries sustained in such an environment. This dissertation also includes a critical introduction analyzing the particular concerns involved with approaching rurality as both subject and setting in American literature, and how noted American novelists have chosen to characterize and present rural settings.