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Steve Mackey Proquest Digital Dissertations

Serial postmodernists: Repetition and innovation in contemporary American fiction

Stephen G. B Hock, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This dissertation examines the cultural politics of repetition and the serial form in contemporary American fiction, particularly the work of Thomas Pynchon, Kathy Acker, and Nathaniel Mackey. I examine points of contact between these authors and commercially popular art forms such as television, genre novels, and jazz, in order to explore the ways in which these authors wrestle with the economics of repeated textual production in the postmodern era. Whereas the goals of the modernist movement might be summed up in Ezra Pound's dictum to “make it new,” in the postmodern era the imperative to “make it repeatable” has become the principle that governs the creation and distribution of art. This principle holds across many fields of cultural production, from television series and serials, to film sequels and remakes, to books by brand-name authors that promise to follow firmly in the footsteps of those authors' earlier work. In all of these cases, the imperative to “make it repeatable” is generally assumed to ensure that originality is eclipsed by a quality that I call “seriality.” The term “seriality” is a particularly useful one, insofar as it encompasses a range of the features of contemporary commodified art, including the development of narrative in installments to ensure repeated audience attention, as well as the presumed status of such art as the product of an almost industrial process. Building on theorizations of postmodernism, repetition, and seriality by figures such as Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Umberto Eco, Fredric Jameson, Brian McHale, and Jean-Paul Sartre, I examine the ways in which authors such as Pynchon, Acker, and Mackey adopt certain features of seriality in their work, including the serial form, as a means by which they can reflexively critique the cultural marketplace through its own logic. ^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Hock, Stephen G. B, "Serial postmodernists: Repetition and innovation in contemporary American fiction" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3179748.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3179748

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