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Title page for ETD etd-09232018-152502

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Gutman, Jennifer Marilyn
Author's Email Address jennifer.m.gutman@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-09232018-152502
Title Cyborg Storytelling: Virtual Embodiment in Jennifer Egan's "Black Box"
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jay Clayton Committee Member
Vera Kutzinski Committee Member
  • twitter fiction
  • digital
  • black box
  • technology
  • new media
  • storytelling
  • narrative
  • jennifer egan
  • new humanism
  • american
  • contemporary
Date of Defense 2018-12-15
Availability unrestricted
This thesis examines Jennifer Egan’s 2012 Twitter story, “Black Box,” and specifically its relevance to evolving concerns on the contemporary literary and cultural scene, including theories of new humanism, the role of narrative integrity in increasingly fragmented media landscapes, and renewed interest in the value of beauty and aesthetics as an ethical dimension of art. “Black Box” offers a parable of reading, writing, and being in the age of digital media. The story’s dystopic future world, dependent on the bravery and sacrifice of beautiful cyborg women, refigures technological mediation of the self as a deeply political and ambiguously ethical act—one that seeks to combat large-scale systems of patriarchal power as well as more insidious hegemonies of a late-consumerist culture’s narcissistic celebration of self. In the process, “Black Box” suggests new modes of technological mediation that call for a deeper connection with notions of human integrity—both in lived experience and in the stories told about it. Though lacking in the type of formal play we might expect from a Twitter story, “Black Box” engages with the medium at a deeper, more provocative level. It meets digital readers at one of their most distracted media sites and brings them into a reflexive relationship with their own modes of technological embodiment.
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