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Titill

Reality at the Breaking Point: A Study of Nietzsche’s, Lyotard’s and Baudrillard’s Postmodernist Theories in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods

Útdráttur

This essay attempts an exploration of postmodernism through the work of three significant writers associated with it and how their theories are mirrored within the novel American Gods by British novelist Neil Gaiman. The aim is not to define postmodernism, but rather to explore a significant theme within it, this theme being the notion of reality. Part I tries to trace the origins of both the term “postmodernism” and, more importantly, how the notion of reality became a subject for analysis within it through the work of nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, and his division of art into Apollonian and Dionysian perspectives. Part II continues by exploring the work of French philosopher and literary theorist Jean-François Lyotard and his “extremely simple” definition of postmodernism as “incredulity towards metanarratives.” In the third and final part, the work of another French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard, and his ideas about the workings of the simulacra and the four phases of the image are explored. At all points the ideas and theories encountered are mirrored within Gaiman’s novel and thus made relatable from its point of view. The novel tells a story of a man’s journey through a chaotic unpredictable reality, and the gods’ struggle for survival within it. The conclusion is that the notion of reality is repeatedly tested, both within the works of the above-mentioned theorists as well as within the novel; all in all reality is found to be something much more chaotic and malleable than traditional perspectives have taken it to be.

Birting
24.9.2009


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