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Title: The poetics of sprawl : literary and filmic engagements with American suburbia, 1990-2017
Author: Eldridge, Pippa
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 9107
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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Analysing fiction and film produced between 1990 and 2017, this thesis traces a loosening of American suburbia's narrow socio-cultural and geographical co-ordinates, and maps the emergence of sprawl as a material landscape and social, psychic and cultural condition. Uncomfortable truths about enduring 'national' values of individualism and frontier heroism permeate my work. However, its justification lies not in exposing geopolitical or historical flaws, but in demonstrating that the erosion of hegemonic narratives linked to suburbia has galvanised a multifarious reconceptualisation of suburban space. This project unpacks sprawl's connotations as a loosely-definable material condition that conjures homogenisation and diversification, growth and implosion, rupture and continuity, and considers the implications of, and possibilities created by, its reconfiguration. It challenges dystopian projections of suburbia - advanced by post-war social studies and erroneously mapped onto fiction by leading cultural critics - and illuminates fictional landscapes of dense socio-political networks. Articulating a poetics of sprawl foregrounds suburbia as a culturally-significant site, whilst opening its literature and film to more complex geographies and critical frameworks. Chapter one plots suburbia's material and socio-political evolution from 1945-present. It analyses the conjunctures that created debilitating associations of suburbia with stasis, and justifies revisionist readings of twentieth-century suburban fictions. Chapter two interrogates crises of suburban place identification in the 1990s, and argues that parodic texts by Wells Tower and A.M. Homes problematise binaristic models of coercion or collapse. Chapter three tackles the ethical corollaries of invoking a poetics of sprawl. It explores Danielle Dutton and Karen Tei Yamashita's renegotiation of local and global interdependencies, and scrutinises their attempts to embrace flexible, less neoliberal, models of identity and community. Chapter four examines film and the urban 'core' around which suburbia is physically and imaginatively structured. It maintains that twenty-first-century horror - long thought to validate white anti-urbanism - increasingly confronts the causes of post-metropolitan decline.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available