Illegible deaths : narrative strategies in the contemporary novel of the undead / Ian Waller Wilson.
This dissertation elaborates a theory of the "undead text" for contemporary literary novels featuring the undead (such as ghosts, zombies, and vampires). When literary strategies designed to transgress the boundaries of the classical literary text---such as ambiguity, circularity, collage structures, pastiche, repetition, metafiction, and nonclosure---are combined with a story focused on undead characters, opportunities increase for readerly engagement. In addition to providing a historical and theoretical discussion of the undead in literature, the dissertation details the ways the undead characters and radical narrative techniques interact in three literary novels from the 1990s, Marie Darrieussecq's Naissance des fantômes (1998), John Edgar Wideman's The Cattle Killing (1996), and Elfriede Jelinek's Die Kinder der Toten (1995). The dissertation views the 1990s as a period during which the undead---and, more broadly, the fantastic---plays a crucial role. The three novels investigate romantic love and loss, the legacy of the Atlantic slave trade that brought millions of Africans to the United States, and post-Holocaust Austrian culture respectively. These novels postulate troubled processes of mourning that prevent those remaining alive from moving on. They do not solve these conundrums; rather, they underscore the importance of solutions while expressing pessimism about the ability of contemporary culture to arrive at them. Ultimately the contemporary novel of the undead argues that continuously interrogating existing models of mourning and the novel plays a vital role in the revision and revitalization of culture.
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