Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Wayne Koestenbaum

Committee Members

David Greetham

Gerhard Joseph

Subject Categories

American Literature | American Popular Culture | Other Film and Media Studies


David Foster Wallace, Postmodernism, Post-Postmodernism, Transgression


The dissertation addresses an absent history of late twentieth-century postmodern literature. Namely, I trace the shifts between 1980s postmodernism, described by Fredric Jameson as encapsulating a “wan[ed]”“affect,” and the emergence of 1990s post-postmodernism, marked by an exaggeration of affect. My dissertation posits that this reinvention of feeling was due to shifts in communication technologies and new media art during the 1970s and 1980s competing with, and eventually rendering obsolete, avant-garde literary techniques for “connection.” These latter strategies were encapsulated in the postmodern “encyclopedic” novel, a form miming the logic of new media, yet incapable of fully addressing new programmatic shifts, such as the installation-centered apparatuses of new media, the textual depth of digitalism, and posthuman data used for characterization. The strain of this pseudo-computational organization and ethic, however, leads to the pursuit of “feeling” on a more visceral basis. Pursuant with this visceral intention, I posit the genre of transgressive literature, usually misunderstood as employing simple-minded shock tactics, as a hinge point between postmodern and post-postmodern conceptions of “feeling.” Transgressive literature, I argue, offers systematic, new-media-like schemas to explore moments of emotional excess or visceral shock, allowing a further bridge to post-postmodernist writers like David Foster Wallace, who explore affect within complex, maximalist schemas. In essence, the study supplies a media analysis of American postmodernism’s demise and return long missing. Such a study is integral to any complete history of postmodernism or consideration of the experimental literature that follows it.