Dissertation > Literature > Literary Theory > Countries in Literature

An Analysis of Slaughterhouse-Five from the Perspective of New Historicism

Author WangMingBei
Tutor GuoHong
School Harbin University of Science and Technology
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Slaughterhouse-Five new historicism the textuality of history thehistority of text
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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Kurt Vonnegut Jr.(1922-2007) is one of the most important postmodernist novelists in contemporary literary history of America. Slaughterhouse-Five, his sixth novel, brought him immediate fame home and abroad and is regarded as one of the most representative works of black humor. Using new historicism as the theoretical basis, this thesis studies Kurt Vonnegut and his Slaughterhouse-Five in a larger social and historical context to open a new perspective on their assessment.Chapter One makes a brief introduction to Vonnegut’s life, his works and the content of Slaughterhouse-Five. Chapter Two summarizes the literature review home and abroad in recent years. Chapter Three is an introduction to New Historicism, which includes the rise, development and the major concepts of New Historicism. Chapter Four interprets "the historicity of text" as shown in Slaughterhouse-Five. New historicists argue that any literary work is a cultural and social outcome shaped by a specific period of history. When Kurt Vonnegut deals with the topics of war and life in postmodern society, he cannot erase the marked characteristics of his times in his works. Besides, a distinguished feature of Slaughterhouse-Five is that this novel contains various inserting historical texts. From the perspective of New Historicism, it also shows the feature of "historicity of text". In Chapter Five this thesis centers on analyzing the feature of "textuality of history" showed in the novel. The representation of the history of "Dresden Bombardment" and its influence on survivors in the novel strongly shows the feature of "textuality of history". Chapter Six explores the historical function of Slaughterhouse-Five. New historicists regard literature as an active agent in the making of history. However, they stress more on the limitation of this shaping power, especially the subversive power of literary works. In Slaughterhouse-Five, there are also elements showing the contained power of literary work shared with new historicism. However, new historicists do not deny the text’s capacity to shape history or their productivity. Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five makes its own contribution to the shaping of cultural and social history. It reflects the strong anti-war desire and plays an important role during the Vietnam War and it is no doubt a warning to people all over the world.By analyzing the mutual relationship between the text and its historical context, it can be concluded that Slaughterhouse-Five is the production of the special historical context, and the publication of Slaughterhouse-Five has exerted a profound influence on the historical context and offered the readers a clearer understanding of some historical phenomena in America.

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