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Undeath and bare life: biopolitics and the Gothic in contemporary British fiction

Bird, Kathryn Elizabeth (2016) Undeath and bare life: biopolitics and the Gothic in contemporary British fiction. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis examines representations of undeath in relation to political power over life in a selection of contemporary British novels published between 1990 and 2010. The novels I focus on draw significantly on themes and imagery from the Gothic genre in order to reflect on the ways in which political, legal and social institutions both produce and depend on certain constructions of human life; on the one hand, the construction of life that is considered worthy of being supported and preserved; and, on the other hand, the construction of life that is judged to be a threat to the health of a population, and is thus abandoned to the experience of legal or social ‘undeath’. Although this thesis begins by situating this form of undeath in relation to Michel Foucault’s work on biopolitics, it draws primarily on subsequent philosophical reflections on the intersection of politics and life in the work of Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito, and Jacques Derrida. All of these thinkers pose crucial questions concerning the relationship between life and politics, law, and sovereignty, as well as interrogating divisions between life and technology and between human and animal life which prove critical in decisions on which lives will be fostered and which lives abandoned. I argue that the Gothic genre constitutes a key resource for contemporary British writers whose work displays an insistent concern with the relationship between political power and biological life; moreover, I also argue that the novels in question often point to moments where theories of ‘bare life’ and of biopolitics in their current forms sometimes struggle to fully account for diverse experiences of being undead before political power over life in the contemporary period.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Depositing User: Dr Kathryn Bird
Date Deposited: 02 Aug 2016 14:30
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2018 13:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/13599

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