Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Experimental novels written from 1984-2000 by authors associated with Generation X collectively struggle with common sense notions of masculinity in their various decades at the end of the twentieth century. Relying on confessional, first-person narration, first novels written by white men stage a critical engagement of outdated patriarchal norms in an effort to produce a more progressive masculinity based on sentimentality. In the 1980s, McInerney and Ellis novels, Bright Lights, Big City and Less Than Zero chronicle the struggles of empty, yuppie men who cannot make connections with their peers due to their emotionally devoid lives. By the 1990s, Douglas Coupland proposes a new, sentimental masculinity with his protagonist Andy who narrates Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. Andy creates sympathetic connections with his peers through the act of confessional storytelling. Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club does similar cultural work as Coupland’s novel by creating an anti-sentimental, nameless narrator so bereft of emotion that he creates a hypermasculine alter-ego and violent groups to avoid the emotional emptiness of his life. Finally, Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000) produces the most progressive, evolved masculine narrator, Dave, who spends the entire novel coming to terms with the death of his parents while raising his brother as a son. The novels, in both content and form, become more complex and richer reflecting the development of their protagonists and their philosophical arguments for progressing into sentimental men.
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