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Title: Philip Roth : the major phases
Author: Gooblar, David
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis is a study of the major phases of the career of Philip Roth. In the nearly fifty years since his first book, Roth has published close to thirty works, creating a body of work now as large and as varied as any twentieth century writer. In an attempt to chart the progression of this career, I break down Roth's oeuvre into six chronological phases, beginning in the late 50s and ending at the start of the new century. Having carried out extensive research into Roth's archive in the Library of Congress, contemporary reception of the books, and a variety of often overlooked cultural contexts, I have attempted to offer a new and original take on Roth's most interesting and distinctive preoccupations. Beginning with Goodbye, Columbus, Roth's first book, I examine the author's complicated relationship with, and treatment of, the idea of Jewish community in America. The second chapter follows Roth's vexed pursuit of, and eventual rejection of, an ideal of literary seriousness in the 1960s, especially in relation to the example of the New York Intellectuals. Chapter 3 looks at Roth's preoccupation with two figures from twentieth century European Jewish history, Franz Kafka and Anne Frank, who figure in a number of Roth's books during the 1970s. Chapter 4 examines the important role that psychoanalysis plays in Roth's books, from the burlesque of an analytic session of Portnoy's Complaint, to an apparent break with psychoanalytic thinking in 1986's The Counterlife. The next phase is Roth's "autobiographical" period of 1988 to 1993, during which he produced four books each at a different point along a continuum between autobiography and fiction. In these works, Roth comes to grips with the ethical issues that his fiction had played with for so long. Finally, the last chapter looks at Roth's final books of the century, investigating how his assessment of three periods of twentieth century American history shows a fascination with individuals who attempt to break free from the forces of determination. Rather than, as is commonly espoused, a break with his earlier work, I argue that the "American Trilogy" continues concerns that have preoccupied Roth from the very start of his career.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available