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Carnivalesque Inversion: The Subversive Fiction of Kurt Vonnegut

Saggers, Emma Louise (2016) Carnivalesque Inversion: The Subversive Fiction of Kurt Vonnegut. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis considers the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, focusing on Cat’s Cradle (1963), Player Piano (1952), and Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), through the literary theories of Mikhail Bakhtin. It concentrates on Bakhtin’s carnivalesque inversion from Rabelais and his World (1965), his theoretical perspectives on the text as a site of struggle from The Dialogic Imagination (1975), and the practical application of his theories with the novel as polyphonic from Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1963). The thesis concentrates on three main themes: religion, technology, and war. Chapter One will examine the theme of religion in Cat’s Cradle. It will consider how religion is presented in society and how fundamental opinion can become embedded in our social and cultural structures. It will further consider the cultural shift in belief from religion to science, juxtaposing the two ideals and highlighting the destructive forces of absolute belief and fundamental opinion. Chapter Two will concentrate on Player Piano, and how technology could have a detrimental effect on the progress of human civilisation. It considers how valuable technology is to the human experience, and what happens to civilisation if humans are forced to surrender everything that gives their lives meaning. Chapter Three will analyse Slaughterhouse-Five, looking closely at the representation of war, and its effects on the mental state of those that are forced to encounter it. It will engage with the ‘ideals’ of war presented in society juxtaposed with the experience of actually taking part in war. Vonnegut critiqued the American social, political and religious structures prevalent throughout his life. To Vonnegut, America had the possibility to become a blueprint for the rest of the world, a role model for the liberation and equality of all human beings, but it needed work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Emma Saggers
Date Deposited: 22 May 2017 09:28
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2021 15:16

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