Locked in the Funhouse: Imprisonment and Escape in Theme Parks of the Postmodern American Literary Imagination
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This thesis aims to investigate and trace the development of the theme park in postmodern American literature. Using theoretical models provided by Jean Baudrillard, Roland Barthes, and Guy Debord, it will explore the idea of simulation and simulacra in the context of the postmodern era and apply it to several primary texts during close readings. The texts will be examined in chronological order (with minor exceptions) and will be shown to illustrate a movement from the idea of confinement, or imprisonment, towards escape, or freedom. Beginning with the proto-theme parks of Donald Barthelme’s short fiction, it will then analyse John Barth’s “Lost in the Funhouse,” David Foster Wallace’s “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way,” several short stories by George Saunders, “Zimmer Land” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, and, finally, Swamplandia! By Karen Russell. The ultimate goal will be to arrive at a conclusion that plots an escape route from the traps of simulation, and, through these texts, breaks free of the oppressive regimes imposed by American capitalism and the postmodern era.