Technology and embodiment in Jennifer Egan’s fiction: the digitisation of bodies, brains, and books

Power, Mairi Rachel (2023) Technology and embodiment in Jennifer Egan’s fiction: the digitisation of bodies, brains, and books. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis offers a reading of Jennifer Egan’s fiction that names the relationship between technologies and bodies as a central thread uniting all of her work. Combating the critical tendency to focus on 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad as the primary example when discussing Egan’s work, my argument takes a thematic approach and pairs Egan’s many texts together in varied combinations in order to highlight the consistent featuring of this relationship across her body of work. In charting this, I utilise cognitive and digital theories in order to map the ways in which Egan’s characters and texts adopt the abilities of technologies. To begin, I explore the importance of flesh within Egan’s novels and analyse bodies in her work as crucial locations that mediate and contribute to the interaction between brain and world. Later chapters move onto discussing the active use of technologies to alter and improve human ability, using cognitive theory as a lens to determine the varying success of these technologies within Egan’s texts. Through doing so, I foreground embodiment as a central concern within Egan’s fiction and an important component of her discussions of technology and digital culture.

Another level to this analysis considers the transformation of fiction and the digitisation of the novel. I perform a similar analysis of the book body as with the human body, charting the ways in which Egan’s work demonstrates a progressive reliance upon digital technologies—incorporating them into the visual form of her books, as a site of reading, and as a method of publicity and type of paratext. Within this analysis I comment upon the adaptive nature of fiction and situate Egan’s narrative experimentation within the long legacy of literary experimentation with narrative form.

An undercurrent to my argument concerns Egan’s interaction with the legacy of postmodernism: her work begins in the countdown to the millennium and carries on into the twenty-first century. My thesis demonstrates how Egan’s relationship with technology shows her adaptation of certain postmodern concepts, bringing its ironic critique of a mediated, information heavy society into the increasingly digitised world of the 2000s. This thesis emphasises the lack of critical attention given to female authors in the postmodern and contemporary periods, and attempts to combat this by providing focused analysis of one female author.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the Andrew Hook Centre for American Studies.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Burn, Professor Stephen and Stoddart, Dr. Helen
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83627
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2023 11:25
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2023 13:28
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83627

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