“they Made Me And Destroyed Me, And, Mr. Zuckerman, They Aren’t Finished With Me Yet”: J.d. Salinger, Philip Roth, And The Subject Of Late Modernism
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This past year, we witnessed the fifth anniversary of the #MeToo movement’s intense internet traction. What we now term cancel culture is an extension of that consciousness raising moment. Cancellation is a form of protest—a collective renunciation—wherein we are urged to stop monetarily supporting the comedians, authors, actors, directors, etc., that are accused of wielding misogyny, either themselves committing acts of sexual violence, or through their fictitious creations by using sexual violence or sexist attitudes as narrative devices. J.D. Salinger (1919-2010), the author of The Catcher in the Rye, and Philip Roth (1933-2018), most notable for Portnoy’s Complaint, are two authors among many we have been urged to cancel. Salinger engaged in problematic relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 50s, and some of his short stories present similar relationships; Roth demonstrated a certain unwillingness to shy away from writing what we might consider misogynistic content—scenes of imagined violence inflicted on women is among the most damning. Robert Genter offers that, for American fiction in Cold War America, or what he considers late modernist fiction, a concentrated concern emerges for the subject’s ability to keep the social contexts that comprise him at a manageable distance. Broadly, this thesis argues that the way the logic of Roth and Salinger’s cancellation posits a reflexive relationship between fiction and reality is itself symptomatic of late modern literature’s attempts at managing distance. The motivation to cancel both of these authors traverse several boundaries–not only were these two authors posthumously cancelled, but the efforts to retroactively cancel their fiction incites a peculiar demand for works to be able to transcend their own contexts. The modal reflexivity involved here between fiction and reality is characteristic of how art is implicated in cancel culture, but, more importantly for the purpose of this thesis, additional layers of temporal and spatial reflexivity emerge for Roth and Salinger’s generation, as well. Late modernism, as a periodizing label, replicates the fundamental tension that creates the space for the logic of cancellation. At the time these authors were writing, binary, categorical modes—fiction/reality, subject/object, celebrity/civilian, past/present, existence/inexistence—are in the process of closing, and this opens up a new kind of generative requirement for fiction, where texts and authors are simultaneously made and destroyed by their position betwixt multiple temporal and spatial reciprocities.
Number of Pages
Moore, Devon Nicole, "“they Made Me And Destroyed Me, And, Mr. Zuckerman, They Aren’t Finished With Me Yet”: J.d. Salinger, Philip Roth, And The Subject Of Late Modernism" (2023). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1696.
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