Analogies between Nazi culture and American culture in Gravity's rainbow, The thanatos syndrome, and White noise
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This dissertation examines certain ideological comparisons made between the culture of Nazism and the culture of contemporary America by novelists Thomas Pynchon, Walker Percy, and Don DeLillo. Both the arguments and the aesthetic techniques of these authors are examined in representative novels. In Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon's analysis of Nazism is informed by concepts derived from the social protest movements of the 1960s. Through various rhetorical strategies and motifs, Pynchon promotes the thesis that the modern Western notions of rationalism, scientism, capitalism, and militarism are interconnected and that it is ultimately these notions which are responsible, not only for the fascist character of life in post-war Italy and Germany earlier in the century, but also for the fascist character of life in post-war America. In The Thanatos Syndrome, Percy likewise implies that Nazi practices and certain contemporary practices, like those associated with abortion, euthanasia, or social engineering in general, may be described equally as unforeseen or unintended consequences of the Enlightenment. In White Noise, DeLillo presents characters who, in different ways, are overwhelmed by a deluge of cultural production (unlimited amounts of information, goods, and services) which cannot be adequately responded to or understood. Through satire, DeLillo shows how the rationalization and commodification of all forms of production, including the production of "ideas" by university professors, can be associated with a decline in critical thinking, a decline which makes it impossible to recognize the true character of anything, such as fascism itself.