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Title: Teaching the conflicts
Authors: Barbrook, Lee
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: I read Neal Town Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle to interrogate what types of links they make to US countercultural writing, postmodern discourse in American culture, and perceived uninterrogated links to the term America itself in images of modern progressive liberalism. Postmodernist readings of literary texts came under increasing public scrutiny in intellectual debates of the 80s and 90s. My analysis is to situate and reconsider these fictions within debates happening in the North American academy at this time and the more recent one concerning the demise of poststructuralism in the humanities. Linking together works of Sean McCann, Michael Szalay, John Guillory and Mark McGurl I locate Cryptonomicon as constitutive of the postwar drift from the modernist aesthetic yet simultaneously developing within Sacvan Bercovitch’s model of dissensus. Through reference to McGurl’s work in particular, my thesis will offer the first sustained critical reading of Cryptonomicon relevant to the University’s new teaching standards of diversity and research excellence. Through Lauren Berlant’s concept of an intimate public I argue The Baroque Cycle develops a richly aesthetic form of criticism that challenges the consensus view of culturally affirming alternatives to American sociopolitical and economic life. In addition, each chapter charts specific aspects of the impact of European critical theories that presided over the marriage of intellectualism and professionalism in the North American academy. More specifically, and throwing particular focus on resistances to theory and canon change, I discuss how the politics of the classroom developed within the literary culture wars brought with it a renewed emphasis on what postwar professors taught in the classroom.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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