Title page for ETD etd-08212008-183816

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Van der Colff, Margaretha Aletta
Email manet@webmail.co.za
URN etd-08212008-183816
Document Title Douglas Adams : analysing the absurd
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisor Name Title
Ms M A Brown Supervisor
  • existentialism
  • absurdity
  • Hitch Hiker series
  • Douglas Adams
  • madness
  • satire
  • twentieth century society
  • objective morality
  • facticity
  • functions of fantasy
  • constructing subjective meaning
  • dreaming
Date 2008-04-09
Availability unrestricted

This research emerges from an observation that Douglas Adamsís Hitch Hiker Series is not merely characterised by light-hearted comedy, but is underpinned by intricate philosophical ideas, especially those of twentieth century Existentialism and the related notion of absurdity. The study also investigates the interlaced functions of Adamsís fantasy and landscapes of alterity. Paradoxically, Adamsís fantastical creatures serve to illuminate the human condition and the follies and monstrosities that lurk at the heart of humanity. Not only does Adamsís fantasy mirror the maladies of twentieth century society, thus serving a satirical function, but it is also a mechanism for constructing meaning in the shape of alternative realities. Concepts related to alterity, such as simulation (Baudrillard), the structure of Ďrealityí, dreaming (Descartes) and parallel universes are investigated as building blocks of Adamsís fantastic story space. Furthermore, the ideas of Sartre, Camus and other originators of Existentialism, a philosophy which considers the futility of existence and the compulsion to construct subjective meaning, are elucidated and explored in relation to Adamsís work. Existentialist concepts such as facticity and angst, as well as the Beckettian universe and the Theatre of the Absurd, are also discussed in the light of the Hitch Hiker series. Adamsís extensive satirical comment is also emphasised in this study. Adamsís satire does not merely castigate the evils of twentieth century society such as capitalism and bureaucracy, it also unmasks universal human vices such as pomposity and grandiosity, vices that are rooted in the rejection of objective morality. Although Adams comments on the folly at the heart of society, he also presents the reader with an alternative: the subjective reconstruction of oneís inner world in an attempt to spin individual webs of meaning from the nothingness at the worldís core. This study also investigates the ambiguous concept of madness as a subjective reality born of the necessity to construct meaning, and analyses Adamsís alternative landscapes based on the suggestion that Ďmuch madness is divinest senseí (Emily Dickenson, in Ferguson et al., 1996: 1015).

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