Beyond Space and Time: the Revelation of Impoverishing Control Systems in the Literature of William S. Burroughs Open Access

Niebes, Matthew David (2014)

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Today, the historical legacy of the 1960s in popular media depicts a time of experimentation, drug usage, loose morals, violence, protest, and activism. The substantial focus on drug cultures and the emergence of Hippies often eclipses the theoretical principles that directed the New Left. Organizing first in universities, groups like the Students for a Democratic Society founded themselves on the principles of the era's most profound thinkers. As the children of post-war, suburban America, these young people sparked an international movement of counterculture. Beyond drugs, sex and rock and roll, the youths of this movement sought alternatives to their society's prescribed modes of living, a way to structure society so that life might be, as Herbert Marcuse explains, "an end in itself."

However, this popular focus on drugs, sex, and music in the 1960s is not without justification. As author-addict William S. Burroughs shows, ostracizing oneself from mainstream culture was not necessarily difficult; rather, it was difficult to remain ostracized under the homogenizing, commodifying might of media in the industrialized capitalist state. Observable in current depictions of Hippies and the time period, the ideals of any movement or group have been historically essentialized into a few fads and captions.

Simplified by many as a heroin addicted, homosexual murderer, William S. Burroughs denounces cultural commodification throughout his life and work. Specifically, in the Nova Trilogy, he condemns the one-dimensional American paradigm through the countercultural literary technique of cut-ups. Literally cutting and folding together borrowed and original text, he writes three novels of obscene science fiction decrying the state of the country and creative expression. Framing this body of literary work within the frame of theorists indispensable to the counterculture movement, this paper argues that through the creative expression of theoretical principles, the polemical goals and aspirations of counterculture are infinitely preserved, ever-prepared to criticize and awaken challenges to the status quo.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Part One: Exposing the Mythic Control System

  • Introduction 1
  • Marcuse's Problem of One-Dimensionality 6
  • Mills Denounces American One-Dimensionality 14
  • Media's Dynamic Potential 21

Part Two: Equal Members of an Impoverishing Control System

  • The Junky Called Burroughs 27
  • Word Lines--Cut Naked--Lunch 33
  • Becoming Agents of the Nova Police 36
  • The Impoverishing Control System, Nova 42
  • The Algebra of Absolute Need 47
  • Subversion through Media 51
  • Beyond Time and Space 58
  • Bibliography 63

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