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Apocalypticisim in the fiction of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Thomas Pynchon.

Best, Philip Neil (1998) Apocalypticisim in the fiction of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Thomas Pynchon. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Apocalypse should not be thought of as merely a synonym for chaos or disaster or cataclysmic upheaval; more properly we should think of disclosure, unveiling and revelation. The exact status of literary apocalyptic is the subject of some debate, and in an attempt to help clarify matters an introductory historical survey examines both the formal characteristics of apocalypse and the various critical positions taken in regard to the genre's social influence. Texts considered in the chapter include the Revelation of John and Thomas Pynchon's short story Entropy (1959); theoretical works by Frank Kermode, John Barth, and Jean Baudrillard (amongst others) are also discussed. Chapter One traces the development of William S. Burroughs's apocalyptic sensibility through readings of his correspondence with Allen Ginsberg and the novel The Naked Lunch (1959); the latter's apocalyptic title referring to the "frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork". Chapter Two considers Burroughs's experiments with the "cut-ups" and their application in a number of texts, most notably Nova Express (1964). Chapter Three is concerned with Burroughs's work in the 1970s and 80s, and specifically his concept of Here to Go, a theory of mutability presented as a transcendental antidote to the threat of nuclear annihilation (the author's alleged misogyny and the views of radical US feminists are also taken into account). Chapters Four and Five explore the apocalyptic fiction of J. G. Ballard; topics covered include Ballard's concept of inner space, his debt to Surrealism, and the coded landscapes of his more experimental texts; in particular the "condensed novels" which comprise The Atrocity Exhibition (1970). A concluding chapter returns to the work of Thomas Pynchon, offering a reading of Gravity's Rainbow (1973) which allows us to consider his treatment of such related themes as Paranoia, Holocaust, Apocalypse, and finally, Counterforce.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Literature, Mass media, Performing arts
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:1998
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:26 Jul 2011 17:39

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