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The Post-Athletic Identity: Literary and Cultural Representations of U.S. Spectator Sport

Sandison, Simon Robert (2015) The Post-Athletic Identity: Literary and Cultural Representations of U.S. Spectator Sport. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

Previous scholarship concerning the representations of spectator sport in US literature has tended to focus on its tropic representations of exceptional masculinity. In this dissertation I instead propose that this literature is predominantly preoccupied with the physical and emotional decline of athletes after their involvement in sport has ceased. My original contribution to knowledge lies in this exploration of a post-athletic identity commonly characterised by painful nostalgia, disenfranchisement, and bodily deterioration. In the national imagination, US sports are regularly held up as the epitome of popular culture; since the nineteenth century they have been increasingly seen to present and represent a hegemonic, patriarchal and exceptionalist model of the United States. While populist dialogues regularly endorse these appearances, work by American authors and artists – including Jonathan Franzen, Bernard Malamud, Don DeLillo, David Hammons, F.X. Toole and Jenifer Levin – about and featuring athletes upsets these conservative conventions. This iconoclastic challenge is particularly prevalent after 1950, the period during which the majority of texts in this study are written, as spectator sport and the embodied labour of athletes is commodified by promoters, league administrators, and team owners. I identify a series of designations that representations of spectator sport commonly assign to it, including authenticity, nostalgia, form, and risk. I then explore how the covalent literary and cultural representations adopt and rephrase these in a manner that diverts attention from the athletic spectacle and onto the athletes and their development of a post-athletic identity. The speculative definitions given to these terms by the jurisdictive frameworks that uphold contemporary spectator sport are capitalised on by authors who underline the incongruously incomplete experience of their athletes. Finally, I argue that, by removing athletes from models of conventional athleticism, gender and, to a lesser extent, celebrity offer a means of completing this ongoing project of disruption.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Sport, Nostalgia, America, Literature, The Body, Gender, Decline, Masculinity, United States, Franzen, Malamud, DeLillo, Hammons, Toole, Levin, Authenticity, Risk, Celebrity
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr Simon Sandison
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2015 09:55
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2015 09:55
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11254

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