Dissertation, University of Warwick (1999)

Cyberpunk fiction has been called “the supreme literary expression, if not of postmodernism then of late capitalism itself.” This thesis aims to analyse and question this claim by rethinking cyberpunk Action, postmodernism and late capitalism in terms of three - interlocking - themes: cybernetics, the Gothic and fiction. It claims that while what has been called “postmodernism” has been preoccupied with cybernetic themes, cybernetics has been haunted by the Gothic. The Gothic has always enjoyed a peculiarly intimate relation with the fictional. Baudrillard's theories, meanwhile, suggest that, in a period dominated by simulation, fiction has a new cultural role. By putting “theory” into dialogue with “fiction”, the thesis examines Baudrillard's suggestion that the era of cybernetics “puts an end to science fiction, but also to theory, as specific genres”. The version of the Gothic the thesis presents is one stripped of many of its conventional cultural associations; it is a material Gothic.The machinery for re-thinking the Gothic comes from Deleuze-Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. Deriving not from the familiar literary sources but from Wilhelm Worringer’s work on “barbarian art”, Deleuze-Guattari’s version of the Gothic departs from any reference to the supernatural. The crucial theme in Worringer, Deleuze-Guattari establish, is that of nonorganic continuum. Following Deleuze-Guattari’s lead, the thesis analyses key cyberpunk texts such as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, David Cronenberg’s Videodrome and William Gibson’s Neuromancer in terms of what it calls this “hypematuralist” theme. While these texts have often been analysed in terms of “postmodernism” and “cyberpunk,” they have rarely been discussed in terms of the Gothic. Here, though, it will be shown that these texts, and important precursors, such as Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition, are centrally concerned with the breakdown of the boundary between the animate and the inanimate.. The thesis aims to demonstrate that, in its fixation upon catatonic trance, bodies that do not end at the skin, and agency-without-subjectivity, cyberpunk or “imploded science fiction” converges the Gothic with cybernetics on what, following Gibson, it calls the flatline. The flatline has two important senses, referring to a stale of “unlife” and a condition of radical immanence. The thesis is divided into four chapters, each of which considers the flatline under a different aspect. Chapter 1 concerns the flatlining of cybernetics and postmodernism; Chapter 2 deals with the flatlining of the body, paying particular attention to the Deleuze-Guattari/Artaud concept of the Body without Organs; Chapter 3 focuses upon the flatlining of reproduction, opposing both sexual and mechanical reproduction to Deleuze-Guattari’s idea of propagation; Chapter 4 considers the flatlining of fiction itself in the context of hyperreality.
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Making It with Death: Remarks on Thanatos and Desiring-Production.Nick Land - 1993 - Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 24 (1):66-76.

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