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Durham e-Theses
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The Literature of Bio-Political Panic: European Imperialism, Nervous Conditions and Masculinities from 1900 to 9/11

PARUI, AVISHEK (2013) The Literature of Bio-Political Panic: European Imperialism, Nervous Conditions and Masculinities from 1900 to 9/11. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines selected literary representations of personal and political panic in the period 1899-2005, with a particular focus on the way in which literary languages are able to mediate issues around embodied experience. The main emphasis of this thesis is to demonstrate how nervous conditions, informing embodied phenomenological experience and existentialist insights, can be politically subversive in their un-learning of interpellated knowledge. In its opening section, this work studies a novel published in 1899 that depicts contemporary fears about nervous degeneration and offers an interrogation of the ideology of masculinity corresponding to the expansionist era of European imperialism. The trauma of First World War shell-shock and the nervous anxiety of colonial ‘white’ masculinist performance feature in the second and third sections respectively. These study literary texts that juxtapose masculinity crisis with the politics of identity and the articulation of the related problematic of agency. The final section studies a novel that depicts neo-Darwinism and genetic determinism in an age of political terrorism and counter-terrorism post-9/11 and before the 2003 Iraq War. It investigates the novel’s suggestion that bio-political reifications may be resisted by the exercise of emotional empathy and existentialist ambivalence. The thesis as a whole explores how masculinity and existentialist crisis can produce emotional and epistemic interruptions in ideologies that inform normative bodily and social behaviour. In order to offer deeper analyses of nervous conditions and cultural cognition, this work attempts to incorporate various tenets and experimental findings of modern neuroscience with ideas and theories from philosophy of mind. Through a study of selected literary texts, the thesis is offered as a small contribution to the understanding of the nature of human agency, empathy and identity in the changing political world of the last and the current century.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:"Bio-politics" "Masculinity" "Nineteenth-Century Literature" "Modernist Literature" "Colonialism" "Postcolonialism" "Joseph Conrad" "Virginia Woolf" "George Orwell" "Ian McEwan" "Psychology" "Phenomenology" "Existentialism" "Philosophy of Mind" "Terrorism" "9/11" "Neurology" "Neo-Darwinism" "Cognitive and Critical Neuroscience"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Dec 2013 10:01

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