This thesis is a dialectical study of fiction by Martin Amis, Don DeLillo and Salman Rushdie. It situates novels by these three writers in relation to a Western Marxist theoretical understanding of the postmodern and the culture of postmodernity, particularly as developed in the writings of Fredric Jameson. While the thesis is intended to demonstrate how such theoretical accounts help illuminate interpretation of contemporary, postmodern fiction, it also suggests how that fiction might provide a critique, or expose the limitations, of those theoretical or conceptual models themselves.
The thesis traces, in selected examples of Amis's, DeLillo's and Rushdie's fiction, elements of dialectical conflict. It describes the means by which the texts enact simultaneously a form of ideological complicity with what Jameson (borrowing from the economist Ernst Mandel) calls 'late capitalism' and a measure of social and cultural critique. It is with this identification of both the ideological and critical features of postmodern fiction that the thesis is principally concerned.
Chapter 1 charts a Western Marxist model of transition from modernism to postmodernism both through the theoretical writings of Georg Lukacs, Theodor Adorno and Fredric Jameson and through brief studies of examples of modernist and late-modernist fiction. It concludes with an acknowledgement of the difficulties Western Marxist aesthetics have had in identifying any critical potential in postmodern culture. Nonetheless, the literary studies which succeed chapter one offer lengthy discussions of postmodern fiction which carry out Jameson's insistence that a properly Marxian analysis must attempt to identify both the affirmative and the critical moments of cultural commodities. This is a step which, though acknowledging its significance, Western Marxist critics have thus far been reluctant to take.
Chapters two to four, which address the work of Amis, DeLillo and Rushdie, focus particularly on issues such as the loss of a cultural (semi)autonomy in the postmodern and the effect this has had on notions of aesthetic critical distance. While they attempt to reassert the continuing worth and validity of that Western Marxist tradition of cultural critique, these studies also imply some necessary revision of its treatment of postmodernity's cultural products. This latter point is addressed in the final chapter.