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Growing up Neoliberal: The Bildungsroman Under Neoliberalism

Bristow-Smith, Adam (2018) Growing up Neoliberal: The Bildungsroman Under Neoliberalism. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Since the 1970s, the world has seen the ascendance of a new form of global capitalism and, underlying it, a new ideology with its own set of core beliefs and assumptions: neoliberalism. The rise of neoliberalism has had a profound effect on society, culture, and life worldwide. This thesis offers an analysis of one part of that broader socio-cultural picture. It explores how a specific cultural form with a particular societal focus, the literary genre of the Bildungsroman, has been adapted by authors seeking to use the genre to address the dominant political-social system of their day. The Bildungsroman has its roots in the rise of capitalism, and the exploration of certain socio-political problems is central to the genre through its core focus on the relationship between human development, the individual, and society. As such, the rise of a new, dominant form of capitalism has particular significance for it. Taking four novels by four significant authors from across the lifespan of neoliberalism – Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974), David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996), Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), and Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (2004) – this thesis examines how each author has sought to examine, reclaim, redeploy, and problematise the genre in order to address neoliberalism. Two key features of neoliberalism are of particular significance here: neoliberal ideology’s individualised models of human behaviour and societal functioning, and neoliberal capitalism’s global dominance and systemic functioning. Each case-study demonstrates something about how these aspects of neoliberalism have overlapped with, co-opted, and undermined core elements that enable the Bildungsroman to function as a tool for socio-political exploration and critique, and so about how neoliberalism functions culturally. Through these analyses, this thesis explores not only what neoliberalism can tell us about the Bildungsroman but also what the Bildungsroman can tell us about neoliberalism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Dr Adam Bristow-Smith
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2018 12:00
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2018 12:00
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20597

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