Fathers, Sons, Brothers, Lovers: Masculine Mourning in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Vuleta, Amy (2014). Fathers, Sons, Brothers, Lovers: Masculine Mourning in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay MPhil Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2014.454

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Author Vuleta, Amy
Thesis Title Fathers, Sons, Brothers, Lovers: Masculine Mourning in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Formatted title
Fathers, Sons, Brothers, Lovers: Masculine Mourning in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2014.454
Publication date 2014-10-17
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Open Access Status Other
Supervisor Hilary Emmett
Margaret Henderson
Total pages 135
Language eng
Subjects 2005 Literary Studies
Formatted abstract
This thesis explores nostalgia, mourning, and masculinity in Michael Chabon’s postmodern homage to Golden Age comics, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It argues that nostalgia, as the primary mode of remembrance by which the male characters mourn their losses, and through which the novel itself yearns to revisit a past moment in history, is ultimately inadequate to successfully mourn a traumatic history. The novel is engaged in a revisitation of history in a number of ways: through the creation of a site of memory out of the novel, through the construction of a collection of textual traces to memorialise the past, and through offering different versions of narrative closure to each character.

This study offers close readings of the novel, informed by a range of theoretical approaches, which uncover the relationships among nostalgia, masculinity, memorialisation, history and memory, grief and loss, and mourning in the postmodern. In its textual analysis, the thesis draws on theorists of the postmodern, mourning, memory, history, and nostalgia to describe how the novel can be read as symptomatic of a particular moment in postmodernity, and is at once celebratory and ambivalent about its own narrative past and future.

Kavalier & Clay references the opposing cultural sites of the museum and the circus, and this study analyses the presence of these sites in the novel to explore their respective spatial fixity and transience in light of the themes of nostalgia and loss. Spatiality is further mobilised in the narrative by the repeated enclosure and emergence, ascent and descent, and flight and grounding of its characters. These recurring spatial motifs enact the nostalgic desire to enclose and thus arrest time in a contained space, and also privilege a ground-level view point over an ascended and therefore omniscient gaze. Chabon’s novel inspires this kind of analysis for the way it self-consciously deploys the form, themes, and motifs of postmodernism—namely the melding of high- and low-culture, irony and sincerity, and self-referential monumentality.

This thesis concludes that as well as celebrating nostalgia through its postmodern form, plot, and themes, the novel also offers a critique of interminable longing for that which has passed. Nostalgia’s inadequacy is responsible for the novel’s ultimately conservative ending, which may be considered a failure of the potential for postmodern literature to imagine a new order. This ending can also be read as an implicit critique of the exclusion of marginalised stories and lives from dominant accounts of history.
Keyword Nostalgia
Masculinity
Mourning
Postmodernism (Literature) -- United States
Historiographic metafiction
Contemporary American Fiction
Space
Michael Chabon
Kavalier and Clay

Document type: Thesis
Collections: UQ Theses (RHD) - Official
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
 
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Created: Sat, 04 Oct 2014, 21:10:27 EST by Amy Vuleta on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service