Socio-sonic control, deviant musicality, and countercultural resistance in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Player Piano, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Authors: Marceau, Catherine
Advisor: Marcoux, Jean-Philippe
Abstract: This thesis considers three literary works from the postwar decades in which social control is omnipresent: George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano, and Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The analysis posits that these authors depict potential individual and collective responses to socio-sonic control, including conformism and deviance, through the musicality of their characters. My approach, grounded in theorizations related to sociology, musicology, and sound studies, develops a holistic perspective of the soundscapes of modernity that characterize the novels. This theoretical framework allows for an examination of two central notions in the narratives; namely, the institutionalization of sonic cultures for purposes of social control, and the concept of musicality as part of a deviant career. My main argument is that Orwell, Vonnegut, and Kesey present their characters' reception of sound as being doubly tied to their reactions to repression. On one hand, the authors represent music and sound as tools of control produced and used by authoritarian powers. In the novels, such powers enforce socio-sonic norms that support a social system based on the subjugation of the population under a hegemonic ideology. On the other hand, the authors present musicality as means of resistance: they interlink their protagonists' deviant reactions vis-à-vis sound and their countercultural postures. Music and sound are an integral part of Orwell's, Vonnegut's, and Kesey's prose; I argue that, through their portrayals of musicality, they foreground the possibility for individual agency and countercultural resistance to oppose authoritarianism. The thesis offers an innovative approach to the narratives, as its theoretical interdisciplinarity leads to new considerations illuminating the relationship between socio-sonic control and deviant musicality in postwar anti-authoritarian dystopias.
Document Type: Mémoire de maîtrise
Issue Date: 2021
Open Access Date: 9 August 2021
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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