Rocket states - an analysis of US missile culture

Collignon, Fabienne (2009) Rocket states - an analysis of US missile culture. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis emerges out of a study of Thomas Pynchon’s work, from certain qualities and attributes that recur in his writing, notably the forces and hauntings of technology; the project is, further, alert to these phenomena as it is to Pynchon’s prose technique which exemplifies these aspects in its proliferative connections and modes of association. The study, whose title similarly derives from Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, offers readings of literary, historical and visual texts, and examines the radioactive substance, as well as the cultural implications and material manifestations, of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and of its support mechanisms. Adopting an interdisciplinary perspective, the thesis focuses on the interface between geography and technology, and identifies how missile technology is expressed, developed and linked to already existing narratives of particular US states. It uses methods and interpretations drawn from the creative mythologies of Alexis de Tocqueville and Thomas Jefferson, the fields of cultural and military studies, theories of technology formulated by Paul Virilio, Jean Baudrillard, Laurence Rickels and Paul N. Edwards, architectural and spatial theories developed by Henri Lefebvre and Anthony Vidler, and Cold War horror and science fiction movies, all of which frame the wider issues involved. The premise for the project is the representation of American power, or of the ‘American spirit’, in D.H Lawrence’s words, as a monster, a vampire which feeds on the subjects of the nation; this notion of vampirism is latent in the project’s four chapters, on Colorado, Kansas, Cape Canaveral and New York, which seek to address different aspects of the country’s flights into (nuclear) enclosures.

The first chapter, ‘Excavation’, focuses on the state of Colorado and uranium mining, and examines the missile’s substance, its nuclear core, through close readings of Stephen King’s The Shining. The second chapter, ‘Preservation’, is concerned with the state of Kansas and the missile silo, and employs the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Allen Ginsberg, Thomas Pynchon, Frank Baum and a range of political and military studies to arrive at a consideration of the form of the missile silo as the epitome of an architecture of storage. The third chapter, ‘Evacuation’, homes in on Cape Canaveral, guided by J.G. Ballard’s Space Age short stories and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, and utilises archival material from James E. Webb, NASA administrator from 1961–1967, to argue that narratives of progress and possibilities of movement are bound to the need to seek refuge in static enclosures. The fourth chapter, ‘Transmission’, zeroes in on New York, and is concerned with missile defence; it deploys analysis of the works of H.G Wells, Jonathan Schell, Nikola Tesla, Ronald Reagan and Elaine Scarry to discuss the transmission of rays, and of rumours.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: missile technology, narratives of space
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
T Technology > T Technology (General)
F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F001 United States local history
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Pascoe, Prof. David and Coyle, Dr. John
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Fabienne Collignon
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-936
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Aug 2009
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2013 14:35

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