Seceding from the Narrative: How the Criminal Underworlds in William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch Map out a Non-Linear Narrative through the Creation of “Temporary Autonomous Zones”

By Kenneth DiMaggio.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In various criminal dialogues, monologues, rants, and scenes, William Burroughs secedes from traditional linear narrative to create a non-linear landscape that reconfigures the text into a series of interrelated “temporary autonomous zones.” Temporary Autonomous Zones” (or “T.A.Z.”) is a philosophy of “ontological anarchy” and “poetic terrorism” developed by Hakim Bey, and which tries to perceive the world beyond “the influence of a Cartesian anesthetic gas.” Traditionally, Burroughs’ Naked Lunch is viewed as a creation of “cut-ups” or random juxtaposition of text. I feel that the anarchistic and criminal themes of Burroughs’ text are more responsible for mapping out non-linear narrative. Furthermore, these various interrelated autonomous-zones in Burroughs’ text also make the book less of a predictable commercial commodity, and more of a subversive and independent document.

Keywords: Non-linear Narrative, Anarchy, Autonomy

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.11-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 819.981KB).

Kenneth DiMaggio

Associate Professor of Humanities, Humanities, Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

I am an Associate Professor of Humanities at Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut. CCC is an urban community college where students are often reading at a level that is below traditional college course work, thus making literacy a prime issue that constantly needs to be addressed. Besides finding new ways to address literacy issues, I am also looking at how to create non-traditional models of writing instruction for the classroom. I was awarded a fellowship for Connecticut Community College instructors to do research at Yale University, with the focus on finding a way to internationalize your curriculum. I recently completed research and published a paper on a Madagascar-based exhumation ceremony known as “Famadihana” and how it creates a discourse between the living and the dead. I am trying to use this model as a way to create a written discourse for students to relate their present with a past that is often seen as a foreign or even hostile subject.


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