I’m a Phd today! Woo-hoo!!!!! Here’s the abstract.
Imagining the Virus: A Discourse Analysis of Contemporary Fiction
This study seeks to apply the insights of discourse analysis to the epidemic of signification surrounding the virus, marking out the traits and terrain of an emerging discourse. The confluence of biological and technological viral language interacts with articulations of health and sickness, literal or metaphorical, already active in other discourses. The virus has rhetorically metastasized across referential domains. The study takes as its starting point concrete examples of viral figuration, and is structured around contemporary novels concerning HIV/AIDS, vampires, the villains and plots of suspense thrillers, and science-fictional transformations of the human.
Imagining the Virus traces the terrain of the virus along two basic strands: the virus as a figure of the other and the virus as a postmodern placeholder for ambiguity. A comparison of their relative weight and functioning attempts to discern the kinds of relationships that occur between these two strands as they play out in different fictions. An examination along such lines unearths dominant cultural tropes and their attendant anxieties. Particular kinds of metaphors influence our attitudes and judgments by selectively focusing on certain aspects of a concept while suppressing other aspects. This study finds examples of reframings of the virus that resist the more destructive of these, either by refusing to be complicit with them, or simply as a function of imagining new constructions and possibilities. As a mutating viral terminology circulates through a diverse American culture, it draws models of horizontal structures and networks, maps clusters of referential associations, and speculates on newly-emergent adaptations and ecologies.