Date of Award
Honors College Thesis
Jonathan Barron, Ph.D.
Since Philip Roth’s official retirement from fiction writing after the publication of his last novel in 2010, scholars have embarked on a major reassessment of Roth’s oeuvre. This analysis is a reassessment of Roth’s Nathan Zuckerman series, which includes nine novels beginning with The Ghost Writer (1979) and ending in Exit Ghost (2007). While much has been written on The Ghost Writer and its inclusion of a character that is believed to be Anne Frank, scholars have overlooked the beginning of a major theme in Roth’s work. The emphasis is often placed on Roth’s engagement with history, the Holocaust, and the ethics surrounding the appropriation of Anne Frank’s persona. However, my research examines the role that the denial of death plays in the Zuckerman novels, which are introduced immediately in The Ghost Writer, including how Nathan’s identity as Jewish and as a writer is influenced by the problem of death. Zuckerman’s difficulty in accepting death is prominent throughout Zuckerman Unbound (1981), The Anatomy Lesson (1983), The Prague Orgy (1985), and The Counterlife (1986), the subsequent novels in the series. The analysis ends with a discussion of American Pastoral (1997), where I argue that Zuckerman manipulates his role as narrator and tricks the reader into forgetting about his presence in order to ignore the reality of death. My interpretation offers a unique and holistic approach to reading the Zuckerman series by introducing an expansion of previous scholarship to the nine novels and an entirely new lens (the denial of death) through which we can reread the entirety of Roth’s oeuvre.
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Germenis, Matthew P., "“the impossible that is going to happen”: The Denial of Death in Roth’s Zuckerman Books" (2014). Honors Theses. 234.