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Title: Mailer‘s ghost: the record of a career
Authors: Forss, Alexis Wiktor
Advisors: Self, W
Keywords: Great American novel;American litreature;New journalism;authorship
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: If Norman Mailer is now remembered at all it is for his vociferous opposition to Feminism, for his dangerous vision of personal violence as the means of salvation as against the claims of a nebulous totalitarianism in American society, and for having made his life an example of these dubious ideals. The neglect finally rests on his image as a frustrated and inconsistent literary artist who failed to fulfil either his early potential or the recklessly bold claims he made for his own work. Without attempting an apologetics on those first three points, this thesis proposes a reading of Mailer‘s work and career that will reveal their coherence. The Executioner‘s Song—which is normally treated as a brilliant but atypical outlier—will be read as the culmination of a conscious literary effort that had begun two decades previously, with the publication of Advertisements for Myself. The later book will be shown as fulfilling the boast Mailer had made in the earlier anthology to write a great novel predicated upon the philosophy of Hip—the personalised form of American Existentialism that he had devised. Focusing chiefly on Mailer‘s creative nonfiction, this thesis will chart the evolution of his project to demonstrate that in order to write his vaunted, errant masterpiece he needed to exhaust the language with which he had proclaimed it. With a particular focus on his illeistic journalism it will be shown that Mailer had to deplete himself as a subject before proving equal to the feat of imaginative empathy that The Executioner‘s Song required. There is no restoring Mailer‘s lost notoriety, but this thesis argues that he deserves better than both the over-appraisals and the animadversions that have accumulated to his name; that it is his struggles and imperfections that make him the representative writer of his generation.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:English and Creative Writing
Dept of Arts and Humanities Theses

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