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Fictions Inc.

Fictions Inc.: The Corporation in Postmodern Fiction, Film, and Popular Culture

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 262
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  • Book Info
    Fictions Inc.
    Book Description:

    Fictions Inc.explores how depictions of the corporation in American literature, film, and popular culture have changed over time. Beginning with perhaps the most famous depiction of a corporation-Frank Norris'sThe Octopus-Ralph Clare traces this figure as it shifts from monster to man, from force to "individual," and from American industry to multinational "Other." Clare examines a variety of texts that span the second half of the twentieth century and beyond, including novels by Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, Richard Powers, and Joshua Ferris; films such asNetwork,Ghostbusters,Gung Ho,Office Space, andMichael Clayton; and assorted artifacts of contemporary media such as television'sThe Officeand the comic stripsLife Is HellandDilbert.

    Paying particular attention to the rise of neoliberalism, the emergence of biopolitics, and the legal status of "corporate bodies,"Fictions Inc.shows that representations of corporations have come to serve, whether directly or indirectly, as symbols for larger economic concerns often too vast or complex to comprehend. Whether demonized or lionized, the corporation embodies American anxieties about these current conditions and ongoing fears about the viability of a capitalist system.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6589-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XVI)
  4. Introduction: From Manchuria to Manchuria Inc.
    (pp. 1-17)

    It is curious to note that the 2004 remake ofThe Manchurian Candidate(1962) has little of Manchuria left in it apart from the title’s resonance. To be sure, eachManchurian Candidatefollows Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra in the original, Denzel Washington in the remake) as he inadvertently stumbles on, and ultimately foils, a plot to assassinate a prominent politician. Yet, whereas the Cold War classic simultaneously entertained American fears of both communist and McCarthyist conspiracies, its post-9/11 relative, while updating its war to the decidedly hotter topic of Iraq and Afghanistan, does not simply replace a Red scare...

  5. 1 California Dreaming: Twentieth-Century Corporate Fictions at the End of the Frontier
    (pp. 18-49)

    As the British pop group Stereolab reminds us, despite the “wow and flutter” of corporate capitalism’s neon signs and glittering commodities, it is not nearly as timeless and transcendent as it projects itself to be. It is a time-and-space-bound economic system that structures the world in particular ways and compels it to particular ends. In other words, before beginning an analysis of the ways in which American fiction and popular culture have figured corporations in the era of late capital, there needs to be not only a historicizing of this peculiar institution, the corporation, but also a historicizing of its...

  6. 2 “Domo Arigato, Mr. Sakamoto, for the New Non-Union Contract!”: (Multi)national Threats and the Decline of the American Auto Industry in Ron Howard’s Gung Ho
    (pp. 50-73)

    In 1986, the Mitsui Real Estate Company purchased the Exxon building on Sixth Avenue in New York City for a hefty $610 million. The formidable sale gave rise to a popular story claiming that the initial asking price for the building was a mere $310 million. The Mitsui Real Estate Company had apparently overpaid by $300 million, almost double the asking price. The reason for the gross overpayment, so the story goes in Charles P. Kindleberger’s venerableManias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, was that the company’s president, awash in fresh capital, was looking for a trophy...

  7. 3 Good Times, Bad Times . . . You Know I Had My Share(s): The Corporation in Five Popular Films
    (pp. 74-114)

    Representations of corporations or depictions of corporate power have become familiar tropes in and throughout the image repertoire of popular culture. In movies and television shows, corporations are often cast as the bad guys, coldly calculating in their pursuit of profits, unsympathetic to the human cost of their business (trans)actions. The castigation of a heartless capitalism has become fairly commonplace in such media, so commonplace, in fact, that it might be useful to take a closer look at these fairly one-dimensional representations of corporations to discover the cost of such “flattening” depictions. We might argue that corporations in popular culture...

  8. 4 A Capital Death: Medicine, Technology, and the Care of the Self in Don DeLillo’s White Noise
    (pp. 115-135)

    Don DeLillo’sWhite Noisehas long stood as a perfect primer on postmodern American life in its humorous depiction of one postnuclear family’s mundane day-to-day in a media-saturated world where the strange is rendered familiar and the familiar strange. The unspectacular “hero” of the novel is angst-ridden Jack Gladney, who frets daily over the myriad possibilities of death threatening his safe suburban existence and gropes for answers to the meaning of life in the spiritual dark. His fear of death is so great that it appears to have partially influenced his latest marriage and his career choice as chair of...

  9. 5 Family Incorporated: William Gaddis’s J R and the Embodiment of Capitalism
    (pp. 136-157)

    The chaotic and discordant world portrayed in William Gaddis’sJ Ris one against which not even the family can offer comfort or safe haven. In a novel composed mainly of fragmented speech, in which people break promises, ethical codes, and hearts, it is hardly surprising to discover the various families inJ Rfrequently broken or breaking up as well. While novels published afterJ R(1975), such asWhite Noise(1985) andGain(1998), have had time to absorb and adjust to the shocks of a thoroughly postmodernized family, the family structure inJ Rappears to be...

  10. 6 Your Loss Is Their Gain: The Corporate Body and the Corporeal Body in Richard Powers’s Gain
    (pp. 158-179)

    WhileJ Rtraces the way the corporation’s fictional personhood can be marshaled into a familial structure, thus not only granting capital a body but placing a potential “global family” within its reach, Richard Powers’sGainengages directly with the legal and fictional aspects of the corporation—that it is legally considered a “person”—by exploring the corporation qua corporation and analyzing corporate history in the light of American history. It is the first novel to do so explicitly and rigorously, and thus it differentiates itself from works that are either too “vulgar” in their outright condemnation of capitalism or...

  11. Conclusion: Corporate Hegemony, Cubed
    (pp. 180-206)

    If Richard Powers’sGaincan be said to be as thorough and compelling as any fictional representation of a corporation could possibly hope to be, how then might corporations be dealt with in the future? Certainly, there will always be the familiar morality-play representations of corporations, as many popular films demonstrate. There has been, however, another trend in corporate figurations, one that has taken a more inside-out approach, though always with the feeling that there is no way out of such a maze of cubicles. The postindustrial shift of the U.S. economy to white-collar and service-sector jobs, and away from...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 207-220)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 221-234)
  14. Index
    (pp. 235-244)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-245)