Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

J. Bainard Cowan


This dissertation examines variant mimetic strategies as the basis for a major dialectic within postmodern culture. The method applies and sometimes extends largely accepted theoretical statements on literary form. This synthesis provides an accessible, if at times complex, schema for organizing types, genres, and postmodern products based on image production and forms of spatial/temporal discourse. An investigation of several theorists and artists grounds a theory of literary and cinematic expressionism as the basis for postmodern culture, with particular emphasis given to the interpenetration of literary and cinematic styles in the twentieth century. An aesthetic dialectic emerges in the movement toward literary expressionism as opposed to mimetic naturalism. The expressionistic work is inherently metatextual and, consequently, more directly discursive. Expressionism has followed its own line of development throughout literary history. The eventual reliance of expressionism on the "material image" as a vehicle for signification carries with it a profound transformation of ideas about verbal culture, as well as aesthetic methods and analytical categories (Benjamin, Bakhtin, Ong, and Hillman contribute). The title comes from the "contact" function, Jakobson's term for the use of medial presentation. This dissertation contains two volumes. The first volume is largely theoretical, including three chapters. Chapter One discusses relationships between Jakobson's model and contemporary theory. Chapter Two includes a dialectical history of naturalism, expressionism, discourse, and intertextuality. Chapter Three considers postmodern forms, dream texts, and textual arrays; it also includes a generic classification system for images: "The Image-Genre Grid.". The second volume applies the theory of the first volume to a comparison of Kafka and Beckett as writers who reveal the inherent indeterminacy of the material image. Chapter Four considers Kafka's preoccupation with dream texts and his consequent anticipation of surrealism. Chapter Five examines Beckett as a theoretical writer whose texts present a metatextual language.