Complicated Geographies: Douglas Coupland's North America
McDonald, Jessica 1989-
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Starting with his breakout novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture in 1991, Canadian writer and visual artist Douglas Coupland has published more than twenty works of fiction and non-fiction. Coupland’s prolific writing career has helped him achieve popularity across diverse reading publics, including mainstream or general book-reading publics, as well as scholarly circles. One recurring feature of his work that makes it compelling to read and rich to study is what this project terms complicated geographies. That is, his writing features dynamic textual renderings of space that are complicated in two senses: first, they are sometimes complicit in reinforcing conventional notions of space at the same time that they are often complex, subversive, and resistant to reading practices that try to fix them in meaning; and second, these renderings work to complicate easy, and oft-used, narratives about space. In other words, the complex textual “maps” provided by Coupland’s writing often trouble how public discourse views particular spaces. To study these complicated geographies, I examine depictions of North American space in short- and long-form fiction and non-fiction written by Coupland, from Generation X (1991) to Bit Rot, released in 2016. While North America is the broader frame of reference for this project, I focus in particular on five key spaces from Coupland’s oeuvre: the American Southwest desert region, Vancouver suburbia, British Columbia wilderness, Mexico, and the road. Pairing traditional literary analysis of individual texts with the work of contextualization, in which I discuss how the texts align with or alter popular geographies of North American space, this dissertation argues that Coupland’s works demand that readers rethink how they consume landscapes. His writing provokes individuals to consider how their give-and-take relationships with place influence ecological and social justice. By grappling with and itself embodying both the “good” and “bad” ways of consuming the world that surrounds us, Coupland’s written work exposes the charged ethical issues at stake in the everyday acts of understanding and inhabiting space.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeRoy, Wendy; Van Styvendale, Nancy; Noble, Bram; Martin, Ann
Copyright DateDecember 2019
space and place