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Title: Material Losses: Urban Ephemera in Contemporary American Literature and Culture
Authors: Wasserman, Sarah L.
Advisors: Cheng, Anne Anlin
Smith, Valerie
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Critical Theory
Material Culture
Urban Studies
Visual Culture
Subjects: American literature
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: <italic>Material Losses </italic> considers what it means to live in a time defined by restless renewal and perpetual loss. The project explores how the vanishing objects in American literature and cultural events relay stories of longing and loss. From the paper-maché palaces of the Chicago Columbian Exposition to the abraded edges and smeared ink of missing persons fliers that covered Manhattan after 9/11; from the newspapers in Theodore Dreiser's <italic> Sister Carrie </italic> (1900) to the debris in Don DeLillo's <italic>Underworld</italic> (1997), this dissertation uncovers the enduring relevance of transient objects. Contemporary representations of the ephemeral illuminate the many desires that take shape during moments of national change and crisis. Because ephemera are defined by their imminent disappearance or destruction, they occupy prominent places in narratives that address the grief and anxiety inspired by dramatic change. This dissertation tracks the way that recent American narratives record melancholic responses to the vanishing object-world while transforming that grief into new conceptions of time and new forms of social affiliation. The project unfolds as a series of case studies in which pivotal episodes of twentieth and twenty-first-century American life are examined through those episodes' transient objects and the contemporary narratives that archive ephemera in order to reflect on the modes of longing they make manifest. Ultimately, <italic> Material Losses</italic> reveals how attention to the ephemeral shatters the illusion of permanence, thereby exposing modes of longing such as utopianism, revisionism, and nostalgia as untenable and supplanting them with an orientation to the present--in all its mutability and uncertainty.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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