A Logic Beyond Causality: Postmodern Narrative Logic in William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch, Alfred Chester's The Exquisite Corpse, and Kathy Acker's Empire of the Senseless

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Oda, Kazunori
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Middle Tennessee State University
Contemporary critical discourses on postmodernism narrative have noted that some postmodernist fictions keep readers from settling on definitive interpretations of the narrative and foreground the process of meaning-making. However, the mechanism by which those fictions draw readers' attention to the process of meaning-making has not been sufficiently examined. In this thesis, I focus on unique narrative logics seen in three postmodern novels: William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch (1959), Alfred Chester's The Exquisite Corpse (1967), and Kathy Acker's Empire of the Senseless (1988). The narratives of these three works resist linear and logical development of storylines. Characters suddenly leap from one location to another without any transitional element, and the chronological order of scenes is left in doubt. These breakdowns in the chains of causality unravel the narrative into mere fluid arrangements of narrative-particles, from which readers can create their own order and meaning. This unique mechanism of meaning-making is what I would like to call postmodern narrative logic.
Postmodern narrative logic opens up the text to multiple interpretations and highlights the notion of "the death of the author" and its accompanying "birth of the reader." Postmodern narrative logic is a means to construct one's tentative version of truth out of enormous numbers of possibilities floating in the neutral and free (yet both revolutionary and destructive) space of postmodernity.
Empire of the Senseless, Naked Lunch, Narrative Theory, Postmodernism, The Exquisite Corpse