Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Naomi Mandel

Abstract

This dissertation examines the relationship between the print novel and new media. It argues that this relationship is productive; that is, it locates the novel and new media within a tense, but symbiotic relationship. This requires an understanding of media relations that is ecological, rather than competitive. More precise, this dissertation investigates ways that the novel incorporates new media. The word “incorporate” refers both to embodiment and physical union. This dissertation asks: when the novel and new media are coupled, what is produced?

It answers this question through the close critical reading of four novels: The Zero by Jess Walter, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Each of these novels bears the markings of the tension between the print novel and new media. One of the ways in which this tension is evident is through innovative narrative structures. Jess Walter’s The Zero, contains a schizophrenic narrative structure that includes frequent gaps and omits major plot components. Its structure emulates the novel’s saturation of digressive media images that become the “wallpaper” of the protagonist’s mind. The inclusion of an eighty-page power point presentation in Jennifer Egan’s Goon Squad, for example, adopts new media reading practices for its own narrative purposes. The novels also frequently draw attention to corporeality and the physical fact of the print novel. The glow-in-the-dark cover of Mr. Penumbra imagines the coupling of the print novel and the computer screen. Both Sloan’s and Shteyngart’s novels explore the devaluation of the human corpus and the physical coupling between print and digital artifacts. Finally, each of the novels dwells upon the shifting lexicon of tactility. The words used to describe connection—staying in contact, keeping in touch—no longer have anything to do with physical touch; rather, the language of tactility masks the absence of physical connection.

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