University of Leicester
2017WilsonJKPhD.pdf (1.21 MB)

Violent-Eye Literature: Contemporary American Narratives of Causality

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posted on 2018-01-09, 11:31 authored by Joanna Katherine Wilson
During the 1990s, a number of violent homodiegetic narrators appeared in what I call “violent-eye fiction”, that which is written from the continually immersive first-person perspective of a violent protagonist. This sub-genre of transgressive fiction is used in this thesis to question whether a first-person protagonist can ever be a completely unsympathetic character, or whether narratives of causality reconfigure violent narrators into multifaceted, complex, and ultimately familiar individuals. Structured around four chapters, the thesis takes a comparative and thematic approach that enables me to argue that violent-eye texts are ultimately narratives of causality by charting the progression of the violent-eye protagonist out of childhood, into adolescence, and ultimately into adulthood, with the first three chapters reflecting this movement. Aetiological violence is the subject of the first two chapters, with childhood trauma and mother blame explored in Chapter One through textual analysis of A. M. Homes’ The End of Alice (1996a) and Jeff Lindsay’s Dark Dreaming Dexter (2004), and adolescent trauma and absent fathers analysed in Chapter Two in relation to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club (1996) and Don de Grazia’s American Skin (1998). Ontological violence is the subject of Chapter Three, in which adult violence and sexual desire are explored, particularly in relation to the problematic conflation in some novels of violence and homosexuality, including Joyce Carol Oates’ Zombie (1995) and Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse (1996). Finally, Chapter Four looks at Stephen King’s Rage (1977a) and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin (2003a) in order to explore the absence of school shooters in 1990s fiction. This discussion brings the thesis full circle by returning to reassess the concept of the unsympathetic character and showing how the absence of school shooters from violent-eye fiction of the 1990s onwards arguably indicates that they fall into this category.



Halliwell, Martin; Graham, Sarah

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of English

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


Due to copyright restrictions some images have been removed from the electronic version of this thesis. The unabridged version can be consulted, on request, at the University of Leicester Library.



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