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|Title: ||The Role of Popular Mythology and Popular Culture in Post-war America, as represented by four novels - The Floating Opera and The End of the Road, by John Barth, White Noise, by Don DeLillo, and Vineland, by Thomas Pynchon.|
|Authors: ||Reed, Mark Dobson|
|Keywords: ||Popular culture;John Barth;The Floating Opera;The End of the Road;Don DeLillo;White Niose;Thomas Pychon;Vineland;American Literature|
|Issue Date: ||2004|
|Publisher: ||University of Sydney. English|
|Abstract: ||The four novels - The Floating Opera, The End of the Road, White Noise, and Vineland - are representative of the cultural shift away from traditional moral concepts after World War II. Popular culture has increasingly become the guiding force for the continuation of American society, and in Don DeLillo�s White Noise, popular culture and its creation of myth (according to the author�s representation of America) has become embedded in the system and life of contemporary America. John Barth�s novel The End of the Road and its predecessor The Floating Opera are important in any discussion of the role of popular culture and popular mythology in post-war America. They both appear to signal an end to sincere intellectual thought or debate, and the notion of imposing a rational moral world upon the social landscape surrounding the individual. The Floating Opera explores the common tendency of society to avoid difficult intellectual struggles, and the central character and first-person narrator ultimately realises that questions about the nature of existence are of no objective value. In The End of the Road the character Jacob Horner adopts a superficial reflection of pre-existing rules and social conventions. Together these novels reflect much of what is at present understood as the postmodern aesthetic, and are indicative of many of the changes in America that were about to occur. The Floating Opera was published in 1956 and The End of the Road was published in 1958, but they are still highly relevant beyond the period in which they were written. White Noise (1984) portrays a system founded on the Hollywood mythology, and the superficial reflection of pre-existing rules and social conventions found in The End of the Road. The novel revolves around the experiences of the narrator, Jack Gladney, a university lecturer who teaches Hitler studies at Blacksmith College, and his wife Babette. The course which he teaches on Hitler is influenced by Hollywood myth, and the novel portrays a consumer-based society that has lost much of the firm moral basis which traditional religious concepts formerly supplied. The role of television, Hollywood, and the idea of simulation are all explored throughout the novel and are important forces in any examination of post-war American society. Finally, in Vineland (1990) the social upheavals which occurred during the late �60s and early �70s are explored from the perspective of the 1980s. The novel refers to a vast array of images and icons from popular culture, and the brief youth rebellion, in the late �60s, which failed to inspire any final social revolution. The result of this failed social revolution is a landscape of popular culture in modern America, where Godzilla leaves footprints in Japan and popular mythology from television or pulp novels coincides with everyday life. There are references in typical Pynchonesque fashion to those who must necessarily be orchestrating these social and cultural alterations, but they, as specific individuals, remain anonymous or hidden from the scope of the author (although, as in White Noise, there are deliberate references to the CIA and other agencies or departments within the U.S. Federal Government). Vineland is important, therefore, both as an account of the social changes which occurred in America between the late �60s and �80s, and the increasing role of popular culture in America. These four novels form the basis of an exploration of the role of popular mythology and popular culture in post-war America. They form a clear progression, and allow a detailed analysis of the social and cultural changes which contemporary America has undergone since the end of World War II.|
|Rights and Permissions: ||Copyright Reed, Mark Dobson;http://www.library.usyd.edu.au/copyright.html|
|Appears in Collections:||Sydney Digital Theses (Open Access)|
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