A gestalt approach to the science fiction novels of William Gibson
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Gestalt psychologists Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler argue that human perception relies on a form, or gestalt, into which perceptions are assimilated. Gestalt theory has been applied to the visual arts by Rudolf Arnheim and to literature by Wolfgang Iser. My original contribution to knowledge is to use gestalt theory to perform literary criticism, an approach that highlights the importance of perception in William Gibson’s novels and the impact of this emphasis on posthumanism and science fiction studies. Science fiction addresses the problem of difference and the relationship between self and other. Gestalt literary criticism takes perception as the interface between the self and the other, the human and the inhuman. Gibson’s work is of particular interest as his early novels are representative of 1980s cyberpunk while his later novels push the boundaries of science fiction through their contemporary settings. By engaging with Gibson the thesis makes its contribution to contemporary science fiction criticism explicit. In Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy autopoiesis defines life and consciousness, elevating the importance of perception (Chapter I). The Bridge trilogy uses the metaphor of chaos theory to examine dialectic tensions, such as the tension between space and cyberspace (Chapter II). Faulty pattern recognition is a key theme in Gibson’s post-9/11 work as gestalt perception allows and limits knowledge (Chapter III). Chapter IV explains how the gestalt in psychoanalysis creates a fragmented subject in Spook Country (2007). Finally, the gestalt appears as a parallax view, a view that oscillates between the world we experience and the world as represented in the text (Chapter V). I conclude that gestalt literary criticism offers an exciting new reading of Gibson’s work that recognises its engagement with visual culture and cyberpunk as a whole.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic copy restricted until 18th December 2019
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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