Date of Award

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

English

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Jeffrey Gonzalez

Committee Member

Laura Nicosia

Committee Member

Adam Rzepka

Subject(s)

Egan, Jennifer -- Criticism and interpretation, Egan, Jennifer -- A visit from the Goon Squad, Identity (Philosophical concept) in literature, Punk culture

Abstract

This thesis examines Jennifer Egan's novel A Visit from the Goon Squad through its themes of identity, communication, and the search for authenticity, focusing especially on its treatment of punk aesthetics and technological communication. In dealing with these themes, this paper encourages consideration of the novel's portrayal of punk aesthetics as they influence the way the characters perceive their own identities, their sense of belonging within a community, and their views on personal and artistic integrity. Of note are the characters Bennie Salazar and Scotty Hausmann, whose experiences in the punk scene of 1970s San Francisco inform how they recognize and perform legitimacy as adults, as well as how they perceive community as advanced, technological modes of communication become more prevalent with time's passing. While either character centers himself around his idea of authenticity, their differing interpretations of punk ideology cause them to develop contrasting views on the maintenance of that authenticity. Despite these contrasting attitudes, these two characters share a desire for a meaningful connection to those around them, and a sense of belonging within a community, both of which are challenged by advancing technology. Depicting New York City in the 2020s, the novel's closing chapter suggests that the character Alex, who is representative of a newer generation, feels isolated by this technology due to its ubiquity, while struggling with his own perception of ethical purity as technology allows for the commodification of personalities and interests. This paper argues that Bennie and Scotty, through their punk-informed ethics of authenticity that are challenged by advancing technology, influence characters such as Alex toward a sense of connectedness that overrides their preoccupation with individual validity.

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