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Title: The Cold War and the American media in the fiction of Gore Vidal
Author: Bryant, Christopher William
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis is a reading of the satirical fiction and the political essays of Gore Vidal. It argues that central to Vidal's representation of contemporary America is an understanding that the media have been essential to the maintenance of the Cold War. Throughout this study I emphasise that extent to which this undertaking is distinctly personal. I chart Vidal's progress from a Cold Warrior in the early days of his career to his emergence as a dissident who increasingly understood the image of America advanced by the media to be a fiction. I argue that, as a result of his disillusionment, Vidal came to the conclusion that the principal task of the media is to conceal the political and economic objectives of the federal government. An understanding of the reasons why Gore Vidal has long termed the period 1945-1950 "the golden age" is essential to a reading of his journey from imperialist to dissident. In this connection I first describe his important childhood influences from the politics of his Southern grandfather, Senator T. P. Gore, to the cinema of the 1930s. From this I establish the boundaries of his political idealism and the extent to which the Jeffersonian principles of his grandfather conflicted with the state interventionism that informed 30s cinema. The main body of the thesis examines how such a contradiction informs Vidal's politics, and the role played by the media in this. Vidal's work as a writer and a political activist witnesses his quest for the exceptional American nation state endorsed by a grandfather who opposed a strong federal government. In his search for a subject from his first novel, Williwaw (1946), to his eight, Messiah (1954), and in his support for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election Vidal nevertheless yearned for the strong leader endorsed by 1930s cinema. In reading his novels, plays, essays and his campaign for election to Congress in 1960, I assess Vidal's vision of a strong America under a strong president. My focus is first on Vidal's understanding of how television drama and advertising had altered American politics, and second on how at the same time he accepted the representation of the Cold War prevalent in the media.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available