Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The lattice-work gun-stinging insect: The story of genre in the science fiction novels of Philip K. Dick
by Fuerst, Carl, Ph.D., Northern Illinois University, 2014, 279; 3639966
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the authorial techniques used by Philip K. Dick to establish his work as science fiction. It focuses on four of his novels (two relatively minor novels in The Cosmic Puppets and Solar Lottery, and two major novels in The Man in the High Castle and Valis). These novels represent four important stages in Dick's career, and in his conception of science fiction as a genre of storytelling. Throughout this dissertation, emphasis is placed on how these novels express their science fiction identity on the language level, from the structure of their sentences, to the organization of their chapters, to the specific generic elements (including pseudotechnology, pseudohistory, and pseudotheology) that each novel includes.

This project provides close readings of each novel. These readings are shaped by narrative theory, and they are informed by Dick's total body of work, and, more generally, 20th Century American science fiction. The result is a view of science fiction that sees the genre less as a product of plot elements (faster-than-light travel, telepathy, aliens, and so on), and more as a grammar that evokes a specific kind of relationship between reader and work. It also identifies a trajectory to the development of Dick's ideas about science fiction. Over the course of this study, it becomes clear that, in Dick's earlier works, science fiction is presented as an effective means of apprehending the universe. In Dick's later works, however, we can locate an increasing cynicism in the ability of science fiction to offer real meaning to its readers. In the end, while Dick's later novels might relate a rather pessimistic view of science fiction's potential, his career as a whole reflects a dynamic and open-ended search for significance, purpose, and underlying truth.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gorman, David J.
Commitee: Knapp, John V., Schaeffer, John D.
School: Northern Illinois University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 76/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American literature
Keywords: Dick, Philip K., Man in the High Castle, Narratology, Pseudotechnology, Science fiction, Suvin, Darko, Valis
Publication Number: 3639966
ISBN: 978-1-321-25069-5
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