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    What is ‘anti-spectacular’ fiction?: reconstructing Guy Debord’s ‘spectacular’ alienation in the contemporary novel

    Jones, Elizabeth (2022) What is ‘anti-spectacular’ fiction?: reconstructing Guy Debord’s ‘spectacular’ alienation in the contemporary novel. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    The international uprisings of 1968 popularized Debord’s critique and its central principles appeared as graffiti in Paris. Yet, it subsequently fell into obscurity. As the ‘image’ effectively wholly dominates public space and private life perhaps Debord’s key text, The Society of the Spectacle(1967) is a more convincing theory of alienation than it appeared initially. Will Self observed in 2014: ‘never before has Debord's work seemed quite as relevant as it does now’ (The Guardian, 14th November, 2014). This relevance inspired my use of The Society of The Spectacle to identify representations of the ‘image’ in the novel as a vehicle of contemporary alienation and ‘false consciousness’. I term this group of novels ‘anti-spectacular’ and argue that Debord’s text, as theoretical counterpart, best accounts for their common concerns, shared approach and some themes. A small group of ‘anti-spectacular’ novels are discussed but further research might add to this set; Nineteen Eighty-Four(1949) by George Orwell, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting(1979) by Milan Kundera, Libra(1988) by Don DeLillo, American Psycho(1991) by Brett Easton-Ellis, Trainspotting(1993) by Irvine Welsh and Austerlitz(2001) by W.G. Sebald. Debord’s prescience justifies asking why no real precedent exists for this original use of Debord’s theory. I argue that Debord has been marginalized due to the intellectual direction taken in France, from the reception of Hegel in the 1930s onwards. In Debord’s formative years, Sartre’s legacy produced theories of subjectivity, alienation and aesthetics that develop in an ‘anti-Hegelian’ direction in subsequent Postmodern literary theory. However, Debord’s use of Georg Lukács’ theory of reification, set out in History and Class Consciousness(1923), develops Hegel’s legacy in an opposite, Hegelian-Marxist direction to present an ‘image’ as a vehicle for ideology. Debord’s theoretical concepts-such as ‘totality’, dialectics and collective agency-are repudiated by Postmodernists. If the I.S. first develop aesthetic strategies on a basis of such principles, to transform spectacular ‘false-consciousness’ into oppositional consciousness, this thesis asks if novels might similarly represent alienation in an ‘anti-spectacular’ form.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2022 16:04
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:41


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