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Title: Rewriting tragedy : postmodern American fiction (1968-1990) : Vonnegut, Doctorow, Ozick and O'Brien
Author: Cranmer, Malcolm Neville.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3395 5653
Awarding Body: University of Sunderland
Current Institution: University of Sunderland
Date of Award: 2006
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The intention of my thesis is to examine the ways in which the concept of tragedy in postmodern American fiction has been rewritten and, further, to establish whether 'tragedy', as we normally understand the literary genre, is possible in a postmodern age. I will demonstrate that tragedy has not completely vanished but has been rewritten. To this end my research will encompass a variety of narrative developments in American fiction that illustrate specific uses of tragedy, and yet, in their varying application of literary forms and the approaches to philosophical, theological and ideological concepts, face the tragic consequences of human history. My thesis will examine some of the various types of literary writing from the late 1960s through to the 1990s. The texts on which I will concentrate are Kurt Vonnegut's, Slaughterhouse-Five, E.L. Doctorow's, The Rook of Daniel and Billy Bathgate, Cynthia Ozick's, 'The Shawl' and Rosa, and Tim O'Brien's Northern Lights and The Things They Carried. These novels encompass various 'tragic' experiences, which, I will argue, do fall within the specific criteria of 'tragedy', or at the very least, are a set of occurrences that can be perceived as 'tragic'. The novels deal with significant historical events such that they may be seen to determine individual characters' lives. The themes that I have chosen cover the survival of the central character or characters and the specific effects on those individuals within an arguably tragic set of circumstances. As a result, I will refer to my own interpretation of 'postmodern tragedy' in the context of other various definitions of tragedy which have been recognised in the past, and provide an overview of the subject matter. These include the Dresden bombing in Slaughterhouse-Five, incorporated within a science fiction form; the survival by various means of a boy who becomes a part of the criminal underworld of the 1930s in Billy Bathgate; the effects on the fictional Isaacson children whose parents are executed as spies during the American Cold War in The Rook (d' Daniel; the Holocaust in the Second World War and its horrendous after-effects in 'The Shawl' and Rosa; the battle for survival of two brothers in Northern Lights, one of whom is profoundly affected by the psychological impact of the Vietnam War; and lastly, a focus on the Vietnam War in The Things They Carried. The thesis begins with an introduction to some of the concepts of tragedy and the varied implications and difficulties that arise in defining what a 'tragedy' is, and what is perceived to be 'tragic'. The problems of providing a definition in the realms of the postmodem narrative may be seen to centre on the fact that tragedy can refer to works of art, real-life events and world views, or even structures of feeling. In all of my selected novels it should be noted that none of the central characters reach the point of an untimely end; the various endings in themselves are often inconclusive. However, I will reveal that all of my chosen novels illustrate my interpretation of postmodem tragedy. My research focuses on the differing ways of seeing tragedy at work in each of the novels; as well as the specific difficulties in representing various historical subjects, such as the atrocities of war. Ultimately, I will demonstrate that the concept of tragedy has been rewritten in a postmodem age and has taken on a new meaning in relation to the role of the survivor.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available