Sublime Evil: The Immoral Writers' Celebration of Life
Doctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores the problematic relationship between ethics and aesthetics as reflected in the works of six highly controversial French and American authors of the Twentieth century. The study sets out to investigate the possible reasons why we keep on reading, cherishing and rejoicing in the works of writers who present us with an extremely unsettling ethical situation. Using the notion of Sublime Evil as it plays out in the works of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, Jean Genet, Vladimir Nabokov, William Burroughs and Michel Houellebecq, I explore the mechanism through which works of literature, thoroughly reprehensible from the point of view of conventional morality, prove to be compelling and irresistible. By analyzing at length the escape vaults of love, religion, art, ideology, drugs anti-social behavior such as Nazism, anti-Semitism, pedophilia, prostitution, homicide and theft, in the seven novels, I demonstrate that ultimate dejection ends up paradoxically and inextricably bound with supreme aesthetic beauty.