TitleNo end in sight
NameCollins, Cornelius (author), McClure, John (chair), DeKoven, Marianne (internal member), Edwards, Brent (internal member), Robbins, Bruce (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectLiteratures in English,
Globalization in literature
DescriptionThis dissertation studies narratives of societal collapse in the late twentieth century by situating these within the theory and critique of globalization. The postwar period's domination by nuclear superpowers led civilizational catastrophe to be imagined as an apocalyptic event, as instantaneous, total destruction. Since the Cold War's end, however, the most prominent writers on this theme have projected futures unfolding in degrees of disorder, toward no certain outcome, with smaller-scale but more plentiful disasters. Their narratives answer to a current sense of unchecked global violence, ecological crisis, and, in the US, imperial decline. These works still loosely qualify as apocalyptic literature by their gloomy preoccupation with the potential ends of civilization, but they break with this tradition by rejecting its sharp-cornered historicity.
The dissertation's first half sets the context for this narrative field. The first chapter traces the emergence of globalization as the dominant post-Cold War narrative. Against the story of transnational integration widely promoted after the Soviet Union's collapse, such disparate observers as Mike Davis, Samuel Huntington, and Robert Kaplan warned of cultural conflict, resource scarcity, and demographic upheaval. Chapter Two turns to British literature with Doris Lessing's innovative novels of the late 1960s and early 1970s. These predict and perform precisely the narrative shift that occurs in later accounts of globalization, looking past the immediate terror of the Cold War to a future rife with limited catastrophes.
The second half of the dissertation reconsiders the premier American novelists commonly associated with the apocalyptic. Rather than an arch postmodernist, Don DeLillo is, in The Names, a prescient narrator of the global future. In Underworld, he grandly renders the unraveling of his society's infrastructure and its cultural self-image, then in Cosmopolis depicts in microcosm the country's dissipation into the global network of finance capital. Chapter Four is an analysis of Against the Day, for which text Thomas Pynchon has revised his characteristically apocalyptic framework. His new narrative structure, I claim, is the "catastrophic sequence," conveying history's apparent convergence upon quasi-apocalyptic events--not world-ending, never foreordained, but which can seem to take climactic place in an ordered succession of like disasters.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 220-232)
Noteby Cornelius Collins
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work