The politics of family in the 1990s postmodern fiction of Kathy Acker, William Gaddis, and Robert Coover

O'Brien, Fergus E. (2006) The politics of family in the 1990s postmodern fiction of Kathy Acker, William Gaddis, and Robert Coover. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This dissertation explores representative postmodern novels by Kathy Acker (My Mother: Demonology), William Gaddis (A Frolic of His Own), and Robert Coover (John's Wife) for their highly political portraits of family in contemporary America. With a theoretical grounding in the ideas of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, this study seeks to address the ongoing debate between individual agency and family commitment in the work of three artists often accused of amorality in their writing. In contrast, I offer readings of the novels sympathetic to the ethical potential they offer for contemporary readers. It is my thesis that Acker, Gaddis, and Coover, rather than concentrate on the extremes of either liberal or communitarian theories, are aware of the presence of tenuous boundaries separating the two, leading to a more political interpretation of identity based loosely on citizenship as an articulatory principle for social commitment. Moreover, the postmodern offerings of Acker, Gaddis, and Coover, suggest alternative ways of exploring the family crisis issue. More than simply aesthetic portraits, each writer employs uncertain ontological and epistemological patterns in order to offer alternative moral possibilities for individual agency and family commitment. All three writers, in one way or another, interrogate rationalist notions of identity (both individual and collective) allowing readers to see the problems inherent in traditional theories of agency and commitment.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/11158
Item ID: 11158
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 253-270.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 2006
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Families in literature; Postmodernism (Literature)--United States.

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