Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Gorman, David J.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


Postmodernism (Literature); Narration (Technique); Modernism (Literature)


This dissertation is an effort to describe the effects of Postmodern thought in a variety of narrative forms, including novels, film, and computer games. Using Brian McHale's description of the focal point of Modernist narratives as being epistemological and Postmodernist narratives as being concerned primarily with ontological issues, I trace the possible meaning of the changing understanding of these concepts in the twentieth century. In addition, I interrogate the ramifications of the Postmodern resolution to the crisis of epistemology presented through the work of Modernist writers to test whether or not the Postmodern idea of “claiming worlds” is, indeed, a reasonable or viable resolution to this crisis. It is my contention that a changing sense of the relationship between the definitions of epistemology and ontology in traditional literary narrative has been affected by and has affected the narratives of less traditionally “literary” media. In order to show that this change has occurred, I use a number of texts to serve as examples, first, of the conception of epistemology as presented in Modernist works like James Joyce's “The Dead” and Edith Wharton's A Son At the Front and then of the conception of ontology as presented in Postmodernist work like Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. I then examine more popular narrative forms to examine how Postmodernism's focus on what I term an “epistemologically derived ontology” has crept into the general culture. My specific examples in these cases are Norman Spinrad's cyberpunk novel Little Heroes , the film The Matrix, and a number of video games, particularly online games. My final conclusions are exemplified by the film Memento, which contains many of the Postmodern tenets I propose are typical of mainstream Postmodern works and which also serves as a basis for revealing some of my ethical concerns about the ramifications of this shift in understanding of the aforementioned philosophical categories.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [258]-264)


279 pages




Northern Illinois University

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