Thursday, April 5, 2012

Final Project Proposal: Gibson's Sprawl Series

For my final project, I would like to analyze William Gibson as an author.  I will focus particularly on two of his novels taking place in his “Sprawl” universe (Neuromancer and Count Zero), as well as his short stories “Burning Chrome,” “Johnny Mnemonic,” and “New Rose Hotel.”  These three short stories also take place in Gibson’s Sprawl, using settings and characters later mentioned in his Sprawl Trilogy of novels, and offer insight into Gibson’s earlier writing styles.  I would like to focus on themes such as Gibson’s visions of the matrix, as well as his vision of the capitalistic society of the future.

Questions I will answer in this essay:
  • ·         How do Gibson’s “Sprawl” publications serve as a criticism of industrial capitalist society?  How do some of Gibson’s characters successfully protest against the status-quo, and do they participate in “The Great Refusal,” or the “Rationality of Negation” in some way?  What does Gibson’s character’s interest in technological, bodily enhancements say about their feelings towards their contemporary society?  How does Wintermute’s transcendence change the dynamic of the Sprawl society?  How does Gibson’s Count Zero develop or change the structure of the Sprawl society?  What role does the matrix play in Gibson’s literature?  (ie. Artistic expression?  Escapism?  Would Marcuse accept the idea of the matrix as an artistic medium?)
  • ·         I plan to show that Gibson’s Sprawl series serves as poetic, ground-breaking science fiction, as well as a serious criticism of contemporary industrial capitalist society.  Gibson’s work is a bleak vision of the future as inferred from contemporary economic and social developments.  For the many who suffer to live day-to-day in this cutthroat society, the Matrix serves as a medium through which one can escape, better themselves financially (usually risking their lives in the process), and even achieve temporary transcendence within it (as is the case with Case in Neuromancer)
Gibson, William.  “Burning Chrome.”  Burning Chrome.  New York:  Arbor House Publishing Company, 1986.  176-200.  Print.
  • ·         This was the first story of Gibson’s to take place in the Sprawl, and Gibson’s extensive, colorful descriptions of the matrix have a lot to offer the reader.  Also, one of the main protagonists in this story, Bobby Quine, is later mentioned in Neuromancer as having been one of Case’s mentors.  The Finn also makes his first appearance in this story.
Gibson, William.  Count Zero.  New York:  The Berkley Publishing Group, 1986.  Print.
  • ·         I have only begun to read this novel, so I do not know entirely how I will be using it.  However, themes prevalent in the rest of these cited works are once again present in this novel, such as technical modifications to the human body, and a bleak view of the future of industrial capitalistic society.  In the novel, strange events are beginning to occur in the Matrix seven years after the events of Neuromancer, and two mega corporations fight for control (on earth, in space, and within the Matrix) of a powerful new biochip.
Gibson, William.  “Johnny Mnemonic.”  Burning Chrome.  New York:  Arbor House Publishing Company, 1986.  6-27.  Print.
  • ·         Molly Millions makes her first appearance as a character in this strange short story.
Gibson, William.  Neuromancer.  New York:  The Berkley Publishing Group, 1984.  Print.
  • ·         I will use many of my already written ideas regarding Case and Wintermute’s transcendence in Neuromancer, but in this paper I hope to focus a lot on Gibson’s other works.
Gibson, William.  “New Rose Hotel.”  Burning Chrome.  New York:  Arbor House Publishing Company, 1986.  110-124.  Print.
  • ·         This story is of particular interest for analyzing Gibson as a critic of contemporary capitalist society.  The protagonists of the story work as corporate middle-men who scheme their way, back-stabbing and betraying, selling information and blackmailing rival corporations to get ahead in a world where new technologies are developed at lightning-quick speeds.
Marcuse, Herbert.  One-Dimensional Man:  Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society.
  • ·         I plan to use Marcuse a lot throughout my essay, as his One Dimensional Man is chock full of ideas regarding the regression of society into one dimension, and also the role which artistic expression plays in either accepting or refuting this slide into one-dimensionalism.  I will attempt to analyze characters from Gibson’s Sprawl universe as either participating or fighting against one-dimensionalism, and analyze the role transcendentalism plays in Gibson’s work as potentially changing the standing order of the Sprawl universe.


Adam said...

The set of texts seems fine, neither too large or too small. For your research, the most obvious way to extend it is to use literary criticism focused on Gibson. The other obvious approach is to use other theorists/historians beyond Marcuse to help think about capitalism as such.

Obviously you don't have an argument yet, but you have a structured set of questions to help get you there. I do have two questions which might help you a little.

1) What does expanding your field of inquiry beyond Neuromancer itself accomplish? As yourself that question as you proceed - you might find that some of the texts drop out, or that Neuromancer itself does, as your argument takes shape.

2) What stands to be gained by analyzing Gibson in this way? Are you attempting to further his project? To further Marcuse's project? At the very least, your final goal should be clear to you, and possibly to your readers as well.

As you progress, please feel free to share/discuss a more polished argument with me, if/when you have one.

Patrick Kilduff said...

To start off, I think this is an awesome topic, giving everyone insight into a very complex author who’s stories are very hard to follow at times. A little clarification for myself would be nice as well. Also, the books that are using will be a great addition, primarily because it will give us a broader view of the universe of Gibson and how his characters interact. I would like to see your usage of Marcuse, because it applies here pretty well. The way you are going to analyze Gibson is interesting as well, seeing the societal uses as well as the impact that it made on literature as a whole. Maybe you also put in some Heidigger or Dryfus, just to give some variation in philosophies. But otherwise this is a solid topic.