Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Eric White

Second Advisor

Karen Jacobs

Third Advisor

Davide Stimilli

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with the contemporary problematics associated with the representation of lived experience and navigation of the postmodern world. Specifically, it explores the literary representation of the spatial, temporal, and subjective relationships between the individual and a society increasingly dominated by the proliferation of reproducible images and spectacles. Taking the Benjaminian concept of the destruction of the aura of authenticity in the age of mechanical reproduction and Baudrillard's discussion of the aura's replacement with a series of simulacra as central theoretical underpinnings, the paper defends literature as a privileged and productive site for the thinking through of postmodern experience. In complement with a discussion of numerous theoretical concepts, the thesis uses Don DeLillo's novel, Mao II as a practical application of the argument that literature can exert a shaping influence on public consciousness. The text stands as an ideal example of the type of "thinking through" that the paper advocates, both on the level of the plot with the protagonist novelist, and on the level of composition of the text, with DeLillo's authorship of social critique in novel form. The thesis takes a trajectory that begins with an analysis of postmodern space and difficulties of spatial navigation and continues to a discussion of the subjective dislocation of the individual when faced with the prospect of being in the postmodern world. Within the issue of the dislocation of subjectivity and unique identity, it focuses particularly on the differences between modern and postmodern modes of authorship, especially in reference to what Guy Debord has termed the "society of the spectacle." In addition, the discussion of the prevalence of photography in DeLillo's novel seeks to explore the complicity and resistance of that medium's mixed relationship with the problematics outlined above. Ultimately, the paper speculates as to the productive possibilities DeLillo ascribes to the postmodern artist/author through his commentary within, and structural and narrative approach to, Mao II; concluding that literature can only remain a site of privileged "thinking through" of lived experience if it remains aware of its place within the society it critiques and cultivates an aesthetics of resistance from within that society.

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