Date

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Adviser

Singh, Amardeep

Other advisers/committee members

Fifer, Elizabeth; Moglen, Seth; Bush, Matthew

Abstract

Junot Diaz employs a variety of postmodernist literary strategies in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, such as conflating (and confusing) the role (and identity) of author and narrator, creating a parallel fictional (and semi-fictional) subtext in the form of numerous, often detailed footnotes, and incorporating a hybrid mixture of discourses throughout a self-referential, apparently self-undermining narrative. Yet by means of his persistent satirical tone, pervasive irony, occasional explicit commentary, and thematic inferences, Diaz simultaneously challenges the core tenets of postmodernist-poststructuralist theory. Diaz's creative concerns interrogate the notion of constructed histories, reestablish distinctions within binaries, and defy the poststructuralist prohibition against grand narratives, while contesting the postmodernist tendency toward moral and cultural relativism. Diaz appears to be consciously inviting a poststructuralist reading, even as he simultaneously undermines any possibility for such a theoretical analysis ever succeeding in fully coming to terms with his work. In effect, Diaz redirects the lens of the postmodernist-poststructuralist perspective back on itself, questioning its basic assumptions. Diaz creates a unique, innovative literary language in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, borrowing tropes from Dominican folklore and popular superstition, mixing in idioms and memes from sci-fi, horror, fantasy, Japanese animes and North American movies, television serials, comic books, hip-hop, and urban diction, in order to tell a story that reawakens repressed memories of historical trauma, and enhances awareness of egregious contemporary injustice. Diaz focuses on the devastating trajectory of the imperialist enterprise in the Western hemisphere since 1492, highlighting the rapacious ideology that ruthlessly engenders this ongoing project of exploitation, domination, and oppression. In setting private aggrandizement above collective wellbeing, the imperial mentality causes incalculable, completely unnecessary suffering, beginning with genocide against the native population, and extending into the extreme social disparities of the neoliberal present; the predatory practices of this avaricious agenda have become so destructive that they now threaten the very survival of the human species. Ruthless greed is the curse that afflicts us; the only possible counter spell that can save us will be a courageous return to instinctive solidarity, with timely recourse to the healing power of human love.

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