The Mythology of Us
: Chuck Palahniuk and the Sisyphean Plight of the Postmodern American Absurdist

  • Carolann North

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the novels of Chuck Palahniuk and argues his significance in the American literary canon as a novelist writing within the American absurdist tradition.
Expanding on the philosophies of Albert Camus and Robert Hauck, this thesis argues that America is a country founded on absurdism. Tracing that legacy through its writers, this thesis asserts the importance of Palahniuk’s novels as critiques of postmodern American society. In an increasingly weary American population, the inability to achieve the American Dream has become a source of postmodern anxieties. This thesis demonstrates how Palahniuk identifies and engages with core values within the American Dream, exposing these beliefs as simulacrums.
Fight Club, Palahniuk’s debut novel, has been co-opted by neoconservative political movements in America. However, this thesis postulates Tyler Durden is an absurdist hero, whose anarchic actions are anti-American. Palahniuk’s bibliography is dedicated to the absurdist illumination of the futility of postmodern American identity. Through a close reading of his bibliography, this thesis explores Palahniuk’s critique of the simulacrum of the American Dream through the exploration of core American values, including the heteronormative nuclear family, individualism, capitalism, and sexual morality. Finally, this thesis argues that, through Fight Club 2, Palahniuk invokes Barthes’ theory of the Death of the Author to distance himself from neoconservative movements, and utilizes the narrative of the novel to once again reassert Tyler Durden as a character opposed to ‘traditional’ American values.
Date of AwardOct 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKatherine Byrne (Supervisor) & Kathleen McCracken (Supervisor)


  • Fight Club
  • Camus
  • Postmodern
  • Absurdism
  • America
  • Contemporary
  • Baudrillard
  • Simulacrum
  • Postmodernity

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