I show how American novels from the 1930s experimented with the notion that one must be an individual by showing instead that we are all parts of a multiple mind and body that extends across species and into the eco-biome itself. Select novels of William Faulkner, Djuna Barnes, and Nathanael West, I argue, pose a challenge to the individual as the constituent unit of modern society. Rather than imagine self-enclosed individuals that can be assigned a race, gender, and class, they create a mass body made of a series of similar and generic body parts, functions, instincts, behaviors, thought-processes, and affects?which themselves flow and circulate unpredictably through the population. These novels negate race, gender, and class as the major categorical divisions that kinship and normative reproduction introduces within our species and consequently take us beyond the logic of disavowal that says to be one kind of person we cannot be another. There are no others, only a species-body that makes the Enlightenment idea that we are made of one mind housed in one body into an irrelevant attempt to reduce the multiplicity, make it into a unity, and assign it an identity. I connect the mass body, in the first chapter, to the anthropology of alimentation, theories of "bare life," and the theoretical biology of the human/animal "divide"; in the second chapter, to queer theory, the history of sexuality, and narrative theories of "multiplicity"; and in the third chapter, to post-Marxist theories of the "multitude," mass media and the public sphere. The chapters are united in their concern over the shifting status of the life, death, and wellness of the species-body.
Hasratian, Avak Ovhaness,
"The Death Of Difference in American Modernism: Faulkner, Barnes, West"
English Theses and Dissertations.
Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.