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Literary Violence in the Age of Depression

Title: Literary Violence in the Age of Depression.
Name(s): Osborne, Patrick William Frank, author
Edwards, Leigh H., 1970-, professor directing dissertation
Faulk, Barry J., committee member
Mariano, Trinyan, committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Arts and Sciences, degree granting college
Department of English, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Doctoral Thesis
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2018
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (236 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Literary Violence in the Age of Depression explores violence in contemporary literature and popular culture by evaluating the decline of social bonds in American society and the heightening of Mertonian strain that developed in the wake of consumer culture. The influence of consumerism has given rise to what many scholars deem an age of narcissism and depression. The ideology of the American Dream incites intense feelings of externality and individualism, and the demands of work and consumerism ultimately erode social bonds leading to greater rates of isolation and dejection. Accordingly, much of the violence in American society can be attributed to increasing rates of social strain and the decline of social bonding—i.e. social strain exacerbates feelings of shame while the decrease of the social bond diminishes feelings of connection and love. This is evinced through contemporary literature and popular culture. Rather than simply serving as a dismal depiction of America’s underground drug culture, for example, Selby employs heroin addiction throughout Requiem for a Dream as a symbol for a capitalist ethos that incites social strain and dismantles social bonds. In the epilogue of Prozac Nation, Wurtzel demonstrates that her controversial book is not simply the narcissistic rantings of a young woman battling depression but, more significantly, provides an indictment concerning the current structure of feeling in an American society that has left so many of its citizens cynical, anxious, and miserable. Recent romantic comedies delineate an ambivalent view of love, often reflecting the emergence of a hookup culture, and depict traditional relationships as potentially threatening to the individual; while many remain hopeful of love American’s despondently navigate the hookup culture which typically leads to higher rates of depression. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl elucidates the effects patriarchal violence extolled by the consumer culture has on the female psyche, and, presents Amy’s deviant actions as a response to a social structure that reinforces gendered illusions of self-actualization and allows male entitlement to remain unchallenged. By focusing the plot of Breaking Bad on Walter’s impeded pursuit of financial security, Vince Gilligan presents his decision to cook methamphetamine as the product of social strain. Socialized to strive for the symbols that equate wealth and status in American society but unable to achieve them through conventional channels, Walter turns to crime as an avenue for obtaining the financial stability he so greatly desires. Strain theory likewise aids in interpreting the Hobbesian dystopia Rockstar Games’ presents as American life in GTA IV, and provides a method for explicating Bellic’s motivations for criminal innovation: GTA IV justifies Bellic’s unlawful actions by advocating the necessity of material goods within the game’s plot and hypermediated interface by romanticizing lawlessness rather than encouraging the player’s conformity to societal norms. The American rampage violence narrative, popularized following the aftermath of Columbine, focuses on the shooter’s internalization of social strain due to his inability to form social bonds within their schools and communities by presenting the killer as a psychopath in the vein of Eric Harris or a misunderstood outcast much like Dylan Klebold. Finally, the writers of Glee argue that social boding allows socially strained adolescents to feel connected to society and find a positive outlet for overcoming social strain in a negative school environment. Such literature demonstrates that the elevation of strain and shame produced by the current age of depression, criminological speaking, is an impetuous for violent behavior that America unfortunately observes on a consistent basis.
Identifier: 2018_Su_Osborne_fsu_0071E_14600 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester 2018.
Date of Defense: April 17, 2018.
Keywords: Consumer Culture, Contemporary American Literature, Depression, Social Bonding, Social Strain, Violence
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Leigh Edwards, Professor Directing Dissertation; Jenifer Proffitt, University Representative; Barry Faulk, Committee Member; Trinyan Mariano, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Literature
Persistent Link to This Record:
Host Institution: FSU

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Osborne, P. W. F. (2018). Literary Violence in the Age of Depression. Retrieved from