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Title: The shifting borderline : minority in twentieth-century American writing
Author: Foca, Anna Marie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2671 4917
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2009
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The thesis draws on twentieth-century continental philosophy and literary theory· to frame a counter-tradition in post-World War I American writing that confronts hegemonic cultural values such as individual autonomy and teleological progress. Deleuze's concept of minor literature plays a structuring role: the unending disruption of power structures consolidated by and mirrored in the enforced regularity of language-use. Aspects of Derrida's writings on the rogue further define the theoretical perspective together with Wittgenstein's thought on the drive for (metaphysical) certainty. America's fraught relationship with its self-mythologizing suggests strenuous efforts to regulate signification as well as the necessity of denying material that does not fit into such schemata. The network of writers brought together responds to this tension by disengaging from the struggle between propaganda and protest, while remaining in conversation with both. One aim is to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of literature that can usefully be read using such an approach. The thesis interweaves philosophy, fiction, and memoir through chronologically ordered chapters on specific authors. Emerson's and Thoreau's (re-)placement of the non-rational at the heart of philosophical thinking, for example, discussed in the first chapter as a stagesetting moment, anticipates John Dewey's redescription of logic as a completely historicized and thus contingent technique. Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man probes the outer limits of liberal individualism with its narrator's uncanny credulity,-· wliile race, respectability, and gay gender pose potentially insurmountable problems for James Baldwin's cultural critique in Giovanni's Room. Stanley Cavell's inheritance of Freud's work on melancholia grounds his understanding of philosophical skepticism as both expression and obfuscation of ordinary anxieties. Chuck Palahniuk's insistently superficial looks at beauty, violence, and (social) waste emphasize the body's formative influence on self. Alison Bechdel's memoir of her and her father's quests for a livable II erotic truth" synthesizes fact and fiction using the deceptively transparent comic idiom.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available