Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

David G. Cowart


This study reconsiders the legacy of the Cold War in postmodern American fiction by combining readings of postwar literature and the cultural and historical narrative of game theory. Recently described by Steven Belletto as an under-examined cultural narrative that promised "scientific redemption" during the Cold War, game theory is a branch of applied mathematics that originated in 1944, with John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern's publication of Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. In this dissertation, I illustrate a variety of rhetorical strategies that resist the profoundly dehumanizing effects of Cold War game theory--a theoretical apparatus rigidly applied to military and diplomatic policy throughout the postwar era. Complementing recent scholars, my project establishes the manner in which American postmodern authors, engaging in textual subversion of hegemonic discourses, reaffirm a vision of human agency. Read against a history of popular representations of game theory in the U.S., the writers of this study demonstrate how game-theoretic logic and language prioritize conflict and competition, thereby crippling prospects for collective social action. In "Game" (1965), End Zone (1972), Don Quixote (1986), Prisoner's Dilemma (1988), Infinite Jest (1996), and No Country for Old Men (2005) these authors interrogate the ethics and efficacy of deterministic models of behavior, and ultimately renounce the perfect rationality that underwrites Cold War Manichean ideology.


© 2010, Jeremey Edward Cagle