Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Man, I’m Nowhere: Collisions in Abstract Space in 20th Century America
by Sugarman, David, Ph.D., New York University, 2020, 215; 27828536
Abstract (Summary)

This project traces and theorizes a history and aesthetics of abstract space in American literature and cinema since 1945. Focusing on the works of Jean Toomer, Ralph Ellison, William Gaddis, Karen Tei Yamashita, and American avant-garde and New Hollywood filmmakers in the 1960s and 1970s, this dissertation argues that these circular and disorienting films depict abstraction and abstract space as a means of rendering urban space and experience more legible. The project delineates a century of spatial abstraction in four main stages: the demographic transformations of the Great Migration and the subsequent “slum clearances” that take place in the north; the growth of the postwar suburb; the urban crisis wrought by deindustrialization; the emergence of the concept of the “Global City”. Each of these moments of large-scale urban transformation is informed by a sense that American space is empty—is unencumbered by history, community, or lived reality. Drawing upon urban, film, and literary theory, this dissertation relates each of these spaces—the cleared slum, the suburb, the empty factory, the global city—to contemporaneous cinematic and literary experiments, arguing that aesthetic invention responded to—and resisted—the increasingly abstract conceptions and experiences of urban space in America.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Augst, Thomas
Commitee: Watson, Jini Kim, Deer, Patrick
School: New York University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 82/1(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American literature, Literature, American history
Keywords: Abstract space, American urban history, Literary theory, Urban theory
Publication Number: 27828536
ISBN: 9798662483187
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