Trickster writer’s writing tricksters / Succeeding William

Read, Matthew (2020) Trickster writer’s writing tricksters / Succeeding William. Doctoral thesis (MPhil), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

In the essay section of the thesis, I explore the role of trickster in the TV show Californication (2007-2014). In The Trickster Brain (2012), David Williams applies evolutionary psychology to conceptualise the trickster as a phenomenon linked to the biological development of the human brain. I follow in this approach, conceiving of the trickster as a symbol of humanity's evolution. I refer to propositions from neurology, and in various fields of psychology, including cognitive, evolutionary, and clinical. Luminaries include Steven Pinker, Antonio Damasio, Michael Tomasello, David M. Buss, Sarah Hrdy, Donald Symons, and David J. Linden.

In Part One of the essay, I briefly outline how evolutionary psychology inserted itself into the field of the social sciences in the latter half of the twentieth century. I then go on to demonstrate through an analysis (mostly of the pilot episode) how Hank Moody (David Duchovny) is portrayed as a trickster character thematically entwined in the battle of the sexes in noughties California. I do this by referring to the scientists listed above, as well as various trickster scholars, such as William J. Hynes, William G. Doty, Helena Bassil-Morozow, Barbara Babcock Abrahams, Paul Radin, Lewis Hyde, Gerald Vizenor, and Robert D. Pelton. As I conceive of trickster from an evolutionary point-of-view, so I see the figure as universal. I therefore juxtapose a reading of Californication with traditional trickster tales from around the world, and across cultures and times. Beyond comic entertainment, I conceive of trickster as a symbol of the tension between nature and culture, and explore how trickster's role is linked to his liminality, shamelessness, and authenticity. Through these characteristics, trickster opens up discourses to others, acting as a mediator who transgresses between worlds.

In Part Two, I conceptualise Californication as a product of the counterculture. I refer to ideas by a wide range of scholars, including Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, Paul Fisher, Paul Verhaeghe,Jordan Peterson, Christina Hoff Sommers, Andrew Dworkin, Kate Millet, Christopher Booker, Daniel Kahneman, Mary V. Wrenn, Peter Knight, Timothy Melley, Rob Brotherton, Fredric Jameson, Michel Foucault, Richard Rotty, and the poet Robert Bly. I contribute to the field of trickster scholarship by conceptualising Californication as a trickster text to explore cultural, societal and economic changes in the post-War period, with specific regard to feminism, the rise of the mythopoetic men's movement, neoliberal economics, and the precipitous rise of paranoid narratives. By existing in a moral vacuum, trickster highlights questions of morality and ethics in the minds of the audience. In showing how things should not be done, trickster both outlines normative codes, and at the same time suggests alternatives.

In conclusion, I see trickster as symbolic of the human condition. Always internally riven, trickster is a metaphor for human potentiality, in all its destructiveness and its creativity.

The second part of the thesis is my novel Succeeding William. It follows the adventures of four characters, the trickster William Motion, his protege, Hamish Tush, and local pillars of the community, pub landlord, Dempster Shadaws, and timber yard owner, Arnold Charger. Each chapter is told from the point-of-view of one of the these four characters. William Motion's fortunes take a decided turn for the worse when he falls in love and has his mullet stolen. Hamish Tush rises in his shadow as a boy of principled violence. Meanwhile, Dempster Shadaws finds himself empowered by celibacy and able to control the weatl1er. While the sun shines, Arnold Charger, seeking to make meaning in his life, attempts to start as many affairs as possible.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0045 Theory. Philosophy. Esthetics > PN0045.5 Relation to and treatment of special elements, problems, and subjects > PN0056.A-Z Other special. Topics A-Z > PN0056.T75 Tricksters
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2020 06:51
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/89350

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