Brett Stumphy

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gandal, Keith

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Pynchon; Thomas--Criticism and interpretation; Acker; Kathy; 1948-1997--Criticism and interpretation; Postmodernism (Literature); Postmodernism (Literature)--Religious aspects


In Postmodernism: or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Frederic Jameson characterizes Postmodernism as flat and depthless, as superficial, claiming that Postmodernism marks the death of individual style. Contrary to the critique offered by Jameson and others, that postmodern writers concern themselves more with superficiality and ruptures in meaning, many postmodern novelists exhibit tendencies that parallel the tenets of Romanticism. These tenets include an insistence on organic narrative structure, a subversive political awareness, and an insistence upon the individual as authority over his/her reality, capable of affecting meaningful discourse and political action. Analyzing the novels of Thomas Pynchon and Kathy Acker, this dissertation explores the ways in which these two writers demonstrate the great difference in individual style possible among postmodern writers. By investigating how each writer constructs narrative structures, political tactics, and identity, the study demonstrates how both Pynchon and Acker participate in perhaps the most notable feature of Romanticism, the quest for transcendence. Rather than merely seeking out and participating in the postmodern rupture in meaning, Pynchon and Acker represent the postmodern crisis w ithin their texts in order to then seek the means by w hich to overcome that crisis. This quest, figured as an approach to the sacred, reflects an interest in language as a grotesque, as that which stands outside rational categories by transgressing its own limits. This grotesque transgression allows Pynchon and Acker to liberate individuals from rational language by promoting a language that speaks more immediately to individual reality. Similarly, each writer uses that transgression politically, creating texts that directly violate rational categories that oppress individual desire. Finally, the ways in which each writer employs language and political structures contribute to the means by which they construct identity. In keeping with the postmodern perspective of identity as a site of conflict, individuals and individual desire become important sites for the appearance of the sacred.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [271]-277).


281 pages




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