||This dissertation is based on the courses I took with professor David Barton: The Abject Body and The Avant-Garde part one and part two. In these courses professor Barton led us to explore the development of the theory of the abject body and the avant-garde alone with their social and historical background. In this dissertation I tried to use what I have learned in these courses as a tool to dissect the text, Naked Lunch, which I chose to elaborate. Before reading the novel I was astonished by the movie, Naked Lunch, directed by David Cronenberg based on the novel. I was shocked by the disturbing images, murmuring monologue, and the talking ass episode in the movie so I decided to get a copy of the novel and read it. However, it was not an easy task to read the novel for the novel is very fragmentary, grotesque, and eccentric. Besides, I lack the background knowledge of the American junky underground slang and jargons, and other cultural background.|
By the name of the title I intend to explore Burroughs’s theory of the virus as common human condition. As Burroughs points out that all human beings are potential addicts. In addition to junk, sex, power and language are all viruses and the human body is the soft machine, an arena where all sorts of viruses strive for domination. This virus theory manifests Foucault’s idea that power is productive and it operates by constructing its subject instead of repressing them. The virus theory also manifests the post/modern condition where the distinction between subject and object is obscured, swinging undecidedly, and the boundary between the self and the world is blurred. In the post/modern society technology, capitalism, and the governmental surveillance and policing keep violently penetrate and interfere with the human body and mind. The result is the perpetual conflicts and struggles among these forces and the individuals taking place on the arena of the human body and mind. It is only through these conflicts and struggles that generated from and generate difference in return is the conforming forces and totalitarianism of the dominating hegemony to be broken through.
Moreover, Burroughs is very aware of the fact that the power of the virus exists only when it remains to be an uncanny other, the spectral double. The virus, the other, is charged with the subversive power only when it remains ungraspable like the ghost that haunts the rock-bottom reality and breaks through the power of conformity. The uncanniness of the other generates the uncontrollable desire of repetition coming from the inside. The demonic other residing deeply inside one’s unconsciousness keeps making its reapparitions through accidental repetitions and gradually makes the common daily scene unusual and seem to be full of meaning. The unusual and unfamiliar feeling provokes and yet defeats the desire to incorporate it into one’s cognition. Therefore, it keeps wandering at the margin of the knowledge system, haunting and rupturing. As long as the uncanniness, the phantasy around the other being exorcized, the virus produces only conformity, the hell of the same. For Burroughs, junk and language both are the ultimate viruses because they refuse the revelation of essence and resist conceptual arrest. Only by being an uncanny other that cannot be incorporated or totalized into one’s cognition can the virus make holes in one’s thinking. In so doing, the desire and strength to compete with it keeps generating and keeps the individual free form the solid self-definition by social convention.
In this dissertation I intend to elaborate my understanding of the avant-garde, though roughly, from Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud to the surrealists and the Frankfurt scholars such as George Bataille, Walter Benjamin and those Peter Burger has explored in his book, The Theory of the Avant-garde. I take the theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, and Jean Baudrillard also as the anvant-garde branch because in their writings they share the similar revolutionary intention and self-consciousness or critique about the bourgeois thinking.
||Bataille, George. The Bataille Reader. Edited by Fred Botting and Scott Wilson. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.|
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