Cathy Pleska

Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Arline Thorn

Second Advisor

Lynda Ann Ewen

Third Advisor

Fran Simone

Fourth Advisor

Kitty Frazier


Appalachia can lay claim to many authors who have written works worthy of critical analysis and scholarly research, as the literature they have produced warrants consideration. This consideration, however, is often not forthcoming, and it is the situation concerning West Virginia author Denise Giardina. To date there has been no definitive, full-length study on her and her literature. As an author of considerable talent, who by any measure has published literature of significant quality, she deserves serious scholarly study, not just as an author of regional literature, but also as a contemporary author of the late twentieth century.

The purpose of this thesis is to begin filling the gap that exists regarding research on Giardina and her work. Giardina’s main body of literature to date comprises four historical novels: Good King Harry (Harper and Row 1984), about King Henry V of England and his perilous rise to the monarchy in the fifteenth century; Storming Heaven (Norton 1987), about the mine wars in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky; The Unquiet Earth (Norton 1992), the sequel to Storming Heaven, about the aftermath of continuing coal development in West Virginia; Saints and Villains (Norton 1998), about German minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Although a thorough discussion of all her works is desirable, this thesis will discuss her two Appalachian novels only.


Giardina. Denise, -- 1951- -- Criticism and interpretation.