Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 137 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Bret Benjamin

Committee Members

Edward Schwarzchild


Body, Queer, Human body in literature, Homosexuality in literature, American literature, Queer theory

Subject Categories

American Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Although the primary subject of this dissertation is contemporary American literature and popular culture--individual chapters are devoted to careful studies of Octavia Butler's short story "Bloodchild," Cormack McCarthy's gothic novel Child of God, Chuck Palahniuk's epistolary novel Pygmy, and the track "It's Good" by hip-hop artist Lil Wayne featuring Drake and Jadakiss--I develop a reading of these contemporary texts that places them within much older and richer intellectual, spiritual, psychological, and even biological traditions. My primary focus is the human body, both literal and figurative, as the site of dynamic exchanges, movements, blockages, and productive potentialities. I argue that at times the contemporary novels in this dissertation treat the body as a figure for social formations, at other times they treat inanimate objects as figures for the human body, and at still other times they examine material bodies in a manner that is beyond the figurative. In all of these modes, their engagement with the human body must, I argue, be understood within a much broader intellectual tradition--one that stretches from antiquity to the present, one that includes mythical and spiritual traditions as well as scientific ones, one that reckons evolutionary biology with the metaphysical and the aesthetic, just to name a few. Methodologically I have found it necessary to bring together otherwise desperate discourses: Marxist humanism and science fiction; mythology, Freudian psychoanalysis, and scientific-medical accounts of neurology; Lacanian psychoanalysis, sacred texts, and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari; and media studies, evolutionary psychology, and queer theory. When addressing literature that simultaneously provides instructions for tapping into the body's productive potential, does cost-benefit analysis of bodily expenses and profits, narrativizes journeys into the body's coffers of possibility, and literature that takes the body as an aesthetic site of formal artistic expression as well as an always already processing and digesting zone of impressions and expressions that acts as a linchpin between one's exchanges within oneself and one's exchanges with the exterior environment, it is necessary to have an interdisciplinary approach that adds up to be more than the sum of their parts.