Degree Granting Department
Michael Clune, Ph.D.
City, Frances Ferguson, Fredric Jameson, Kevin Lynch, Pornography
In "Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," Fredric Jameson describes the disappearance, within postmodernism, of an objective framework for mapping the social totality. In order to illustrate this concept, Jameson draws upon the ideas of urban planner Kevin Lynch as formulated in his seminal work, The Image of the City. For Lynch, the design of the postwar alienated city results in varying and fragmentary "cognitive maps" used by its inhabitants to negotiate urban space, a problem that can be rectified by "good" urban planning, which aims to create mappable public space through the implementation of external orientation markers. Utilizing this framework, this thesis suggests the existence of an aesthetic countertendency, within postwar literature, to Jameson's vision that is exemplified in William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch and Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren.
These novels integrally deploy alienated urban environments as settings; however, rather than suggesting structural public spaces as solutions, they offer an alternative, opposite stratagem: the externalization of the intimate onto the public sphere through the integration of pornography. By using the sexual to map character space, they suggest an alternative to Michel Foucault's discursive formulation of sexuality, one that resonates with more recent theoretical work by Leo Bersani and Michael Warner.
In order to examine the role of pornography within these works, this thesis integrates Frances Ferguson's account of the pornographic from her study, Pornography, the Theory, which looses pornography from prior "interpretive" models and recasts it as a distinct regime of representation that stresses objectivity and concretization, particularly in relation to the abstract notion of the "social body." While Delany's Dhalgren offers an image- based deployment of the pornographic experience, in which characters' viewing of the pornographic / sexual leads to full cognition and visual perception, Burroughs's Naked Lunch presents a more physical model, wherein subjective sexual experience (particularly in the rendering of the "mosaic orgasm") ultimately affords the subject with panoptic capabilities.
Scholar Commons Citation
McGowan, Patrick, ""Desirable images": Sexual mapping in William S. Burroughs's Naked lunch and Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren" (2009). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.