In the American Vein: 1945-1975

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In the American Vein: 1945-1975

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This dissertation shows how twentieth-century advances in media technology have contributed to a surge of formal experimentation in postwar American literature and film. Scholars have identified a pervasive influence of mass media on avant-garde art in the postwar era, as can be readily witnessed in the celebrity-obsession of Frank OO'Hara's poems or Andy Warhol's films. But more than providing mere subject matter, the technological instruments of popular culture presented artists with new ways to work, challenging the traditional relationship between the artist and the work of art. Much of twentieth-century literary and critical theory has argued that human perception is endlessly mediated, revealing the concepts of "reality," "the self," and "the author" � to be constructs. I demonstrate that this postmodern conception of what it means to be an author---and even, to be human is a direct result of the ways that electronic media such as radio and television have reframed perception. I consider how postwar American writers and filmmakers contemplated the aesthetic possibilities of newer media by adopting those technologies for their own use, constructing "literary machines" ---technological assemblages that subsume the author's body into the creative process. My project defines "technology"� in Marshall McLuhan's sense of "extenions of man"� in order to show how postwar, pre-digital American literature and film implicated the human body in their understandings of the literary, the cinematic, and the technological. For example, I treat narcotics as a media technology in their own right, provoking users with new ways to see, hear, and experience time. I trace the various roles that drugs have played in twentieth-century theories of literature, media, and human embodiment as well as American literary and film history. Because drugs are a technology literally consumed by the human body, the texts and films that Henry Miller, Terry Southern, John Cassavetes, and William S. Burroughs produced about and under the influence of drugs suggest that the aesthetic and conceptual problems posed by new media technologies are in fact inherent to human experience.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: English. Advisors: Siobhan Craig, Maria Damon. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 238 pages.

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Marzoni, Andrew. (2015). In the American Vein: 1945-1975. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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