Transgressive paradigms : the changing role of transgression in Postmodern art

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2011
Thesis identifier
  • T13011
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201083555
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Transgressions of one form or another occur in every culture and are essential for the development of these cultures. Transgressions, however, in the realm of the arts changed dramatically in the Postmodern era. Not only did they change in terms of the form that they took, but the purpose for which these transgressions were used, and the public’s reaction to them also changed. By referring to a number of transgressive Postmodern texts, it becomes possible to construct a working model of a transgressive text as an artwork which uses traditional artistic devices and techniques but does so in a manner which challenges convention. Having defined transgressive texts thus, this thesis accounts for changes in Postmodern transgressions by contrasting the transgressive elements of Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 poem “Howl” and Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel American Psycho. Drawing on the theories laid out in Thomas S. Kuhn’s 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, it will be argued that Ginsberg’s poem provided a paradigmatic anomaly, initiating a Postmodern paradigm in which transgressions came to be expected and celebrated. Creating the counterculture of the 1960s, this paradigmatic anomaly provided a new, liberating world view for American youth. The thesis, by analysing the manner in which this counterculture was appropriated by the American mainstream, will argue that Ginsberg’s transgressions attack the culture, while Ellis’s transgressions are only made possible by accepting the novel’s place in the culture and exploiting this position. The thesis will also argue that transgressions in the late Postmodern era became mainstreamed faster than in the early Postmodern period, owing to the later texts reinforcing the rules and boundaries set in place by “Howl”, and will then contend that transgressions in Postmodernism changed from a means of liberation and attacking the mainstream to a representation of the Postmodern culture of kitsch.
Resource Type
Embargo Note
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