The Postmodern Humanism of Philip K. Dick
From his 1952 short story 'Roog' to the novels The Divine Invasion and VALIS, few authors have had as great of an impact in the latter half of the 20th century as Philip K. Dick. In The Postmodern Humanism of Philip K. Dick, Jason Vest explores the work of this prolific, subversive, and mordantly funny science-fiction writer. He examines how Dick adapted the conventions of science fiction and postmodernism to reflect humanist concerns about the difficulties of maintaining identity, agency, and autonomy in the latter half of the 20th century. In addition to an extensive analysis of the novel Now Wait for Last Year, Vest makes intellectually provocative comparisons between Dick and the works of Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, and Italo Calvino. He offers a detailed examination of Dick's literary relationship to all three authors, illuminating similarities between Dick and Kafka that have not previously been discussed, as well as similarities between Dick and Borges that scholars frequently note but fail to explore in detail. Like Kafka, Borges, and Calvino, Dick employs fantastic, unreal, and visionary fiction to reflect the disruptions, dislocations, and depressing realities of twentieth-century life. By comparing him to these other writers, Vest demonstrates that Dick's fiction is a fascinating barometer of postmodern American life even as it participates in an international tradition of visionary literature.
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