Our Best Selves: J. G. Ballard, Jennifer Egan, and Conceptions of Happiness Under Neoliberalism

  • Patricia Malone

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In this thesis, I seek to explore conceptions of happiness under neoliberalism through an investigation of contemporary literature, looking at the work of J. G. Ballard and Jennifer Egan. I have sought to offer a loosely Foucauldian reading of the way in which happiness has come to operate as a form of neoliberal governmentality. I build on existing accounts of how a form of neoliberal ‘commonsense’ comes to institute processes of self-management and self maximisation and pay significant attention to an under-represented area of enquiry in exploring how neoliberal happiness discourse permits and regulates unhappiness as part of its programme. My reading of Ballard moves away from the psychoanalytic context in which he is usually situated to offer an account of his work that recognises its emphasis on the material conditions of life,andhighlightsapoliticalshiftinhislateworknotyetmuchcommentedon.The second half of my thesis,which looks at Jennifer Egan’s work,substantially expands existing scholarship, examining all four of her novels published to date and seeking to offer a comprehensive overview of her current critical position.The comparison between these authors is part of a wider exploration of the function of literature, through which I assess how literature can repeat,resist,and reveal the insidious nature of neoliberal power,and the conceptions of happiness that go with it.
Date of AwardJul 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorAndrew Pepper (Supervisor)

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