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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Organic matrices : the encoded world in the U.S. computer novel in the twenty-first century Sharpe, Jillian


This dissertation considers how American novels written after the year 2000 use maximalist and postmodern stylistic devices in investigating the problem of technological determination and its relationship to human autonomy. I examine how Matthew McIntosh, David Foster Wallace, and Thomas Pynchon as authors of such novels identify the historical and ideological conditions that led to a contemporary media landscape in which human behavior and cognition are increasingly changed by the ubiquity of computers and the Internet. In my chapter on The Pale King (2011), I discuss Wallace’s attention to the material conditions and hardware on which computers rely, and I consider the role of algorithmic processes and automation in creating a culture of surveillance that serves the ends of neoliberal profit-making enterprises. In my chapter on Pynchon’s Against the Day (2006), I consider how informatic practices like record-keeping and cartography prefigure the ideological conditions of the Internet by compromising individual privacy and thus safety. I also consider how Pynchon takes the principles of the natural world, particularly entropy as an irreversible process, as a model for possible resistance to such invasive tracking. In my chapter on Pynchon’s later novel Bleeding Edge (2013), I consider the increasingly gentrified virtual sphere, looking at the struggle between collaborative “hacker ethics” and the Internet’s potential to bolster authoritarian power. Finally, in my chapter on McIntosh’s TheMystery.doc (2017), I examine the implications of humanity’s increasing dependence of computers and the consequences to artistic creation and individual autonomy of outsourcing the projects of memory to machines.

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