Islamic Azad University-Central Tehran Branch
Faculty of Foreign Languages
Department of Postgraduate Studies
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Postgraduate Studies in Partial Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in English Language and Literature
Reading William Gibson’s Trilogy;
Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive,
In the Light of Jean Baudrillard’s Theories
Dr. Farid Parvaneh
Dr. Razieh Eslamieh
In the Name of God
To my mother for all she gave me
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Farid Parvaneh, my thesis advisor for his careful readings, insightful comments, and patience. I will always be appreciative of his invaluable and incomparable support and inspiration. I am also grateful to Dr. Razieh Eslamieh, my thesis reader for her expert advice, precise comments and guidance. My special thanks go to Professor Jalal Sokhanvar, the thesis examiner for his support and guidance during all my academic studies.
I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to my family, especially my mother for all she gave me.
This thesis is an attempt to investigate William Gibson’s Trilogy; Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988), in the light of Jean Baudrillard’s critical theories which are categorized under two main headings; “simulation” and “disappearance.” Indeed, this study aims to divulge the specific kinds of ‘simulation’ and ‘disappearance,’ such as ‘the simulation of power’ and ‘the disappearance of the human (body) and the other(‘s body) in Gibson’s Trilogy. Therefore, the researcher elucidates the argument in three main chapters besides the chapters of introduction and conclusion. The second chapter provides a theoretical framework for this study through delineating Baudrillard’s key concepts, such as “hyperreality,” “simulacrum,” “simulation,” “disappearance,” etc. Baudrillard believes that power no longer exists except as “the simulation of power.” He demonstrates “the simulation of power” through expanding on “the hallucination of power,” “the circularization of power/the end of panopticon,” and “the simulation of terror.” With having recourse to these theories, the third chapter seeks to reveal the instances of “the simulation of power” in Gibson’s technological world. The fourth chapter, with an emphasis on the central notion of “disappearance,” attempts to indicate the metamorphosis of the human (body) to the post-human (body) and the recognition of the other(‘s body) which are caused by cyber- technologies, “cyborg” and “cyberspace.” Thus, the main focus of this chapter is to scrutinize the different types of hybrid characters that are continuously merging with ‘cyber- technologies’ and the different kinds of ‘cybertechnologies’ in order to delineate “the disappearance of the human (body) and the other(‘s body)” in light of Baudrillard’s theories in Gibson’s novels. Chapter five presents the findings. As this study concludes, Gibson’ novels depict the technological world in which everything might be simulated/disappeared, or rather redefined through merging with ‘cybertechnologies.’
Keywords: Hyperreality, Simulacrum, Simulation of power, Disappearance of the human (body), Disappearance of the other(‘s body), Jean Baudrillard, William Gibson
List of Abbreviations
C Z Gibson, William. Count Zero. N.p.: Arbor House Pub Co, 1986.
F F Baudrillard, Jean. Forget Foucault. Trans. Nicole Dufresne. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007.
M L O Gibson, William. Mona Lisa Overdrive. N.p:N.p, .
N Gibson, William. Neuromancer. N.p:N.p, .
S & S Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, [1994?].
T T O E Baudrillard, Jean. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. Trans. James Benedict. London and New York: Verso, 1993.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations……………………………………………………………V
Chapter One: Introduction1
1.1 General Background1
1.2 Statement of the Problem9
1.3 Objectives and Significance of the Study10
1.3.2 Significance of the Study11
1.3.3 Purpose of the Study13
1.3.4 Research Questions14
1.4 Review of Literature15
1. 5 Materials and Methodology19
1.5.1 Definition of Key Terms19
1.5.2 Motivation and Delimitation20
1. 6 Organization of the Study21
Chapter Two: Simulation and Disappearance23
2.1 Baudrillard’s Trajectory of Thought……………………….………………….24
2.2.1 Simulation of Power31
2.3 Disappearance………………………………………………………………… 36
2.3.1 Disappearance of the Human (Body)37
2.3.2 Disappearance of the other42
Chapter Three: Simulation of Power in Gibson’s Trilogy47
3.1 The Hallucinatory Signs of Power………………………………………………49
3.2 From Panopticism to the End of Panopticism………………………………..51
3.2.1 The Portrayal and Violation of Panopticism in Neuromancer and Count Zero52
3.2.2 The End of Panopticism in Mona Lisa Overdrive60
3.3 Simulation of Terror….…………………………………………………………63
Chapter Four: Disappearance of the Human (Body) and the other(’s Body) in Gibson’s Trilogy67
4.1 The Metamorphosis of the Human (Body) to the Post-human (Body)69
4.1.1 Cyborg (Technologies)70
4.1.2 Cyberspace (Technologies)76
4.2 The Recognition of the Other(‘s Body)86
4.2.1 The Transparency of the Other(’s Body)86
4.2.2 Simulation of the Other(’s Body)90
Chapter Five: Conclusion96
5.1 Summing up96
5.3 Suggestions for Further Research105
Chapter One: Introduction
1.1 General Background
William Ford Gibson, an American author, was born in 1948 in South Carolina. He was interested in science fictions and used to read the biographies of most American science fiction writers, and also the writings of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs, thus, he was influenced by William S. Burroughs. Gibson “was among the first to explore the implication of virtual communities, reality television, nanotechnology, the digital divide, locative art, and ubiquitous computing” (Henthorne 4). His fictions represent a technological society in which the traits of street culture, such as crime, drug addiction, horror, and chaos are highlighted (Cavallaro 5). Indeed, Gibson was among the first authors who wrote cyberpunk fictions. Cyberpunk fictions “can be seen as an expansion of the tradition of science fiction” (Verhulsdonck 14), a genre which narrates new technological modes of being in “an era of blurred ontologies” (Russell 79). Gibson started his literary career by his short stories which were collected in Burning Chrome (1986). His short stories were followed by his Sprawl Trilogy; Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988). The following novels are the Bridge Trilogy; Virtual Light (1993), Idoru (1996), All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999), and the Bigend Trilogy; Pattern Recognition (2003), Spook Country (2007), Zero History (2010).
This study is focused on the Sprawl Trilogy; Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988). Neuromancer (1984) is a story of a console cowboy/ hacker, Henry Case, whose nervous system was damaged by his employers through Russian “mycotoxin,” so he cannot jack in cyberspace anymore. Case lives in a coffin in Cheap Hotel near Ninsei Street. He usually spends nights in Ninsei Street bars. Wage, Linda Lee (Case’s ex-girlfriend), and Julius Deane are the important characters in this period of Case’s life. After a year, one night when Case goes back to his coffin, a lady, Molly Millions, is waiting there. She was hired to help Case in a dangerous run which Armitage wants Case to do it. Indeed, Armitage wants to control Case through the glasses which were implanted into Molly’s eyes. After Case accepts to do the run, Armitage sends Case to a clinic to undergo a nervous system surgery in order to be able to jack in cyberspace again. Indeed, he feels alive when he is connected to cyberspace (Lloyd 8). And also, some “toxin sacs” are bonded to his arteries to control him.
After the surgery, Case and Molly live and work with each other. Whenever Molly goes to a place for work, Case controls the situation by jacking in cyberspace and connecting to her sensorium. He can see through her eyes and feel her feelings and sensations. Up to the middle of the story, they do not really know whom they are working for. Indeed, they are working for Wintermute, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that persuades Case to help Wintermute to unite with another AI, Neuromancer, in order to increase their power. Meanwhile, Case searches about AIs, Tessier-Ashpool, and their daughter, Lady 3Jane through jacking in cyberspace and talking to Dixie-Flatline (a memory construct). Then, Molly is sent to Villa Straylight where she meets Lady 3Jane and her assistant, Peter Riveria. Molly gets hurt there. When Case sees Molly in danger, he jacks out cyberspace and goes to Villa Straylight in order to save her and complete the run. After their mission, Case goes to Chiba City and buys new parts of body, such as a pancreas and a liver. Then, he goes back to the Sprawl, and finds a job and a girlfriend. He continues his normal life in society and never sees Molly again.
Count Zero (1986), is divided into three stories which are connected to each other. One story focuses on Turner who had been survived from an accident by a Dutch surgeon. The Dutch surgeon with his team put Turner together by using prosthetics and cloning. “Turner represents the most physical breakdown of the opposition between man and machine” (Naidoo 97). He is hired by Conroy to find Christopher Mitchell and bring him to Hosaka. Conroy provides Turner with Christopher Mitchell’s dossier to know him. Turner and the members of a team called Site Team are supposed to control Mitchell’s jet through a biosoft, but there is an explosion before they can get Christopher Mitchell. Therefore, Turner finds Mitchell’s daughter, Angela, instead of Christopher. Angela, also known as Angie, explains everything about his father and herself to Turner. She tells him the members of Hosaka are after her because of her dreams. Then Turner decides to protect Angie, and he brings her to his brother’s, Rudy’s House. Rudy scans Angie and finds a biochip in her head. The biochip has been put in her head by her father in order to enable her to access cyberspace directly. Then, Turner and Angie go to the Sprawl. On their way, sometimes Angie jacks in cyberspace through the biochip and talks different languages. Then, they go to Jammer’s club.
The other story concerns Marly Krushkhova, a disgraced former operator of a gallery in Paris. She is hired by Joseph Virek to find the inventor of the mysterious boxes. Joseph Virek is a wealthy man who lives in a vat and wants to attain immortality. Paco, who works for Virek, helps Marly during her mission. After Marly finds her ex-boyfriend, Alain dead in an apartment, she decides to escape from Virek. In her flight to Japan, she jacks in Tally Isham’s Sensorium and sees Virek. He addresses Marly directly and tells her that he knows her destination. After that, Marly hires a woman to take Marly to the address which she had found in Alain’s room. The address is the address of Tessier-Ashpool’s old place. She goes to the place and meets Wigan Ludgate and Jones. She tells them that she should find the artist of the boxes and let him know that he is in danger. On their way to see the artist, Joseph Virek appears on a screen and tells Marly that she had fulfilled her contract and he had found what he wanted.
The third story centers on Bobby Newmark, also known as Count Zero, who lives near Barrytown. When he jacks in cyberspace to run the software which he bought from Two-a-Day, something happens. Then, he goes to find Two-a-Day to know what happened. On the way, some people attack him in the street and he becomes unconscious. After a while, he finds himself conscious in Two-a-Day’s apartment. He tells Bobby that the voodoo gods have saved his life. Then, he gets acquainted with Jackie; a priestess of Danbala (a voodoo god), Beauvoir, and Lucas. Lucas takes Bobby to a place to meet Finn whose job is selling computer software and programs. Finn explains that he had purchased all his decks, peripherals, and software from Wigan Ludgate. Then, Bobby and Jackie go to Jammer’s Club.
All three stories are integrated in Jammer’s club where Turner and Jammer convince Bobby to jack in cyberspace in order to tell Jaylene Slide that Conroy had killed her boyfriend. Bobby and Jackie jack in cyberspace and meet Virek and Paco. They kill Jackie by mistake, and the voodoo gods kill Virek in revenge. The novel ends with the description of the main characters’ life; Angie and Bobby live with each other. Turner lives with Sally (Rudy’s girlfriend) because Rudy is dead. Marly lives in Paris and owns two fashionable galleries.
Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) is divided into four stories which are interwoven. The first story concerns Kumiko Yanaka, a thirteen-year-old girl, who is the daughter of a wealthy Japanese businessman. Her mother is dead and her father sends Kumiko from Tokyo to London to protect her. Kumiko has a Maas-Neotek Unit with herself and by touching it Colin appears. He gives Kumiko any information that she needs. In London, Mr. Roger Swain and Petal accommodate her. Kumiko’s room is bugged. Kumiko meets Sally Shears, also known as Molly Millions in Neuromancer (1984), and her friend Tick. Since Sally wants to find a person who knows about whatever she has done before, she moves to Sprawl with Kumiko. Thus, they go to New York, and Sally talks to Finn about Case, the Straylight run, and what has happened since fourteen years ago when she got separated from Case. Indeed, she wants to gain some information about Lady 3Jane who is after Sally. Then, Petal goes to New York and takes Kumiko to London. After she hears Swain’s talk with Robin Lanier about Sally and Angie, Kumiko finds out that Sally is in danger. Therefore, Kumiko escapes to find Tick because he knows where Sally is. Tick connects Kumiko’s Maas-Neotek Unit to his deck and jacks in with Kumiko to find Sally through the matrix. In the matrix, Lady 3Jane appears as Kumiko’s mother to threaten Kumiko and Tick, but Colin, whose job is protecting Kumiko, saves her life and helps them to jack out. Then, Sally calls from New Jersey. Kumiko’s father calls to tell her that Swain had betrayed him. Therefore, Petal takes Kumiko to Camden Town in order to protect her.
The second story concerns Slick Henry who lives and works with Gentry in his factory; Dog Solitude. Gentry thinks that cyberspace has a Shape. Kid Africa, Slick’s friend, wants him to accommodate Count, also known as Bobby in Count Zero (1986), and Cherry Chesterfield for two or three weeks. Count is on the stretcher and jacks in cyberspace. Cherry Chesterfield is a med-tech whose job is to take care of Count. Gentry let them stay in return for a package of drugs. He discovers that Count’s name is Robert Newmark through Retinal identification, and also Gentry learns that Count jacks in an Aleph-class biosoft which enables him to have any number of personality constructs in cyberspace. Gentry wants Slick to jack in cyberspace in order to contact with Bobby Newmark and find more information about him. In cyberspace, Bobby tells Slick if anybody should come after Bobby, they get him jack in the matrix. The next time, Slick and Gentry jack in, and Gentry talks to Bobby about the Shape, the Change, the Unification of AIs, and Lady 3Jane. Gentry find out that Lady 3Jane was dead and now is a construct in cyberspace. After Gentry and Slick jack out, some people attack the factory to get Bobby, and this brings about a war.
The next story centers on Angie Mitchell, the same character in Count Zero (1986). She had passed the detoxification process and now is under Hilton Swift’s observation. Angie stars opposite Robin Lanier in Simstim. Angie believes that she had three lives; her first life ended with her father’s death, her second life was with Turner, and her third life was with Bobby Newmark. Angie still dreams because of the vévés (the biochip) in her head. She talks with voodoo gods, Loa, Legba, and Mamman Brigitte in her dreams. Continuity is an AI that gives Angie any information that she needs. Angie learns about Freeside, Tessier-Ashpool family, Lady 3Jane, and the event; “When It Changed” through Continuity. She also finds out that the Security team lost Bobby and he went to Mexico-City, but he is addicted to neuro-electronic now. Angie, Porphyre (Angie’s hairdresser), and the other assistants fly to New York. In their hotel in the Sprawl, Sally abducts Angie.
The other story focuses on Mona Lisa, a sixteen-year-old prostitute, who lives with Eddy, a pimp in Florida. She is addicted to Wiz/Crystal. She is a fan of Angie Mitchell, and also Mona looks like Angie. Prior, a suit, offers Mona and Eddy a job. By accepting the job, they fly to New York. They stay in a hotel in New York. In the hotel, Gerald who is a medic and a surgeon examines Mona. In Gerald’s clinic, Mona undergoes an unwanted surgery in which Gerald changes Mona’s face to Angie’s. As mentioned above, Sally abducts Angie from the hotel, and also abducts Mona from the clinic in order to take them to Gentry’s factory in New Jersey. On their way to New Jersey, Angie hears Mamman Brigitte’s voice in her head. The voice talks through Angie’s mouth and wants Sally to take Angie to Gentry’s factory for something like a marriage.
All the stories in Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) end in New Jersey. After Sally takes Mona and Angie to Gentry’s factory, Angie dies with Bobby in the factory and unites with him in cyberspace. Slick and Cherry go to Cleveland. Porphyre and his assistances find Mona instead of Angie. Then, Angie lives in cyberspace and Mona takes Angie’s place in the real world.
In William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988), the street culture of drugs, crimes, and violence are presented by the author. Although the main issue in these novels centers on a technological world in which everything might be simulated, a deeper study would bring to the focus the effects of technology on the realization of “reality.” For instance, cyberspace is presented as “virtual reality” in order to highlight that in the real world anything might be “unreal” or might belong to another level of reality; “hyperreality.” Such ideas like “simulation,” “virtual reality,” and “hyperreality” have been well expressed and theorized by Jean Baudrillard. Therefore, the researcher intends to read Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) by following Jean Baudrillard’s theories.
Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) is a French philosopher, cultural theorist, and sociologist. He is a prolific author who comments on the most important cultural and sociological issues of the contemporary era, such as consumption theory and the effects of new media, information, and cybernetic technologies on social life in his works. Indeed, his “theoretical underpinning was a growing application of Freud and Marx to the analysis of consumer society itself” (Gane 2). In works, such as The System of Objects (1968) and The Consumer Society (1970) he offers the new theory of consumption (Lane 139-140). In other works, such as The Mirror of Production (1973) and Symbolic Exchange and Death (1979), he elucidates consumption in the new era. In Forget Foucault (2007), he presents his theories concerning power, and also challenges Michel Foucault’s theories regarding sexuality and power.
His ideas concerning “simulation,” “hyperreality,” “disappearance,” etc. are presented in his book: Simulacra and Simulation (1994). In this book, Baudrillard defines “simulation” as “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal” and its “operation is nuclear and genetic” (1). He believes that “when the real is no longer what it was, nostalgia assumes its full meaning” and we have “panic-stricken production of the real and of the referential” (Baudrillard, S & S 4). Indeed, the disappearance of the real “is not because of the lack of it-on the contrary, there is too much of it” (Baudrillard, The Vital Illusion 65-66). Then, he explains the “hyperreal” and the “imaginary” and refers to Disneyland. He believes that “Disneyland is presented as imaginary to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas all of Los Angeles and the America surround it are no longer real, but belong to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation” (Baudrillard, S & S 8). “Hyperreality” along with “simulation” and “disappearance” are Baudrillard’s key concepts.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Although the very first reading of Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy; Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) may not reveal notions like “simulation” and “disappearance,” which are the cores of Baudrillard’s theories, the underlying levels of the novels seem to shed light on these notions. For instance, in Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy, the characters, such as the Artificial Intelligences and the Voodoo gods that are at the head of power structures have no real power. Besides, they cling on simulating danger to establish a system of security and control. On the other hand, the other characters that are ensnared in the networks of surveillance and control and act according to the observers’ expectations, struggling to escape from the panoptic system, thus, they make the source of power indistinguishable between the observer and the observed. Baudrillard believes that the absence of the real power leads to “the simulation of power.” Therefore, the researcher intends to focus on Baudrillard’s theories regarding “the simulation of power” in order to evince that ‘the disappearance of the real power’ can be considered as a raison detre for these instances of “the simulation of power” in Gibson’s novels.
Furthermore, Gibson’s characters in Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) no longer represent the original human beings. For example, Angie’s direct access to cyberspace by means of the vévés (a biochip) in her head, Mona’s face transformation into Angie’s by Gerald surgery, etc. define new modes of human beings. According to Baudrillard, technology by “the erosion of the limits of human” challenges the definition of the human beings (The Vital Illusion 22-23). Hence, this study attempts to scrutinize the impacts of ‘cybertechnologies’ on redefinition of human beings through following Baudrillard’s theories concerning “the disappearance/simulation of the human (body)” in Gibson’s novels. Moreover, in these novels; the border lines between one’s own body and the other’s body are lost, for instance, Case can move into Molly’s body through jacking in cyberspace. Baudrillard believes that upon the progress of technology, “all that remains is a lack of determinacy as to the position of the subject and the position of the other” (T T O E 122). Therefore, the other (‘s body) is redefined through using ‘cybertechnologies’ in Gibson’s novels. This redefinition can be examined with having recourse to Baudrillard’s theories regarding “the disappearance/simulation of the other(‘s body)” in this research.
1.3 Objectives and Significance of the Study
By borrowing from Jean Baudrillard’s critical thinking, this study attempts to demonstrate how “simulation,” “simulacrum,” “disappearance,” and “hyperreality” are taken for granted by most readers in William Gibson’s novels. His novels including Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) could be read just as cyberpunk fictions in which high technologies and the hallmarks of street subcultures, such as anarchy, crime, violence, and drug addiction are represented. In contrast to these general overviews, the researcher intends to indicate that the reading of Gibson’s novels by following Baudrillardian theories can reveal new aspects of the novels. Therefore, the researcher seeks to focus on Baudrillard’s ideas concerning power, human, and the other, such as “the simulation of power,” “the disappearance of human (body),” and “the disappearance of the other(’s body). Baudrillard believes while the reproduction of ‘the real’ makes it disappear, simultaneously enhances it. Indeed, in the hyperreal world, “everywhere reality is enhanced, multiplied…, or recreated” trough technology, and all of this means that human beings live in “a total simulation” (Hegarty 9). He claims that in this world of simulation, everything, such as power, human, and the other might be simulated or disappeared. As a result, the researcher intends to find the relation between “simulation” and “disappearance” of the aforementioned entities and the presence of technology in Gibson’s novels. To sum up, this study attempts to reveal that Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) not only represent high technology and street culture, but also they divulge that technology challenges the real world and makes it ‘hyperreal’.
1.3.2 Significance of the Study
Since William Gibson was “the leading practitioner of cyberpunk” (Parini 124), his writings have been long appreciated for representing the impacts of technology on the world and the culture of technological society. Therefore, this study intends to propose the new ways of reading Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy in the light of Baudrillard’s theories regarding “simulation” and “disappearance.” On the one hand, this Baudrillardian reading of Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) turns attention to view Gibson’s world as a microcosm of the real world in which power is “simulated.” This kind of view indicates how power is represented in Gibson’s novels. First, the absence of real power is intensified in the novels by placing the AIs and the Voodoo gods at the head of the hierarchical structures of power. These characters can be viewed as “the signs of power” in order to refer to “obsession with power…its death…and its survival” (Baudrillard, S & S 15). Second, Gibson is uncertain about the source of power in his novels. Therefore, there is no way to locate the positions of the dominator/observer and the dominated/observed because their positions are reversible. This very idea can be seen between Henry Case and Molly Millions in Neuromancer (1984). The same conditions exist in Count Zero (1986) between the main characters and their employers. Regarding the above discussion, the existence of cameras in Angie’s residence in Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) can refer to “the end of the Panopticon system.” According to Baudrillard, in the new system, “it becomes impossible to locate one instance of the model, of power, of the gaze, of the medium itself, because you are always already on the other side” (S & S 20). Third, in Neuromancer (1984), the reason for the existence of “toxin sacs” in Case’s body is revealed by comparing them with atomic bombs. They are not only used for establishing a system of security and control, but also for concealing that there is no more power. In other respect, this study presents a deeper understanding of Baudrillard’s theories concerning “the simulation of power” by scrutinizing how power is represented in Gibson’s novels; Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988).
On the other hand, this research brings human beings’ status in this technological world into the light. Indeed, this Baudrillardian reading of Gibson’s novels attempts to elucidate how the human (body) is transformed into the post-human (body) through using ‘cybertechnologies,’ such as ‘cyborg technologies’ and ‘cyberspace technologies’ by focusing on Baudrillard’s theories regarding “the disappearance/simulation of the human (body).” Baudrillard believes that human beings in their “blind quest to possess greater knowledge” and “immortality” bring on their “own destruction,” or rather risk their “own disappearance” (The Vital Illusion 17-18). It is very paradoxical, in a sense that while technology gives human beings the opportunity to survive ‘the disappearance,’ at the same time makes them disappear. Consequently, this research seeks to shed light on the new definitions of the human body and humanity in the technological world.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that the progress of ‘cybertechnologies’; ‘cyborg technologies’ and ‘cyberspace technologies,’ affects not only the human body and humanity, but also the other(‘s body). Therefore, the researcher intends to suggest a new way of looking at the other(‘s body) in Gibson’s novels by highlighting Baudrillard’s theories regarding “the other.” Baudrillard claims that ‘the other’ is never there and this is “the ubiquitous simulation of the other” which exists all over the world (T T O E 124). It seems that there is no real ‘other,’ or rather ‘the other’ is simulated on account of the nostalgia over ‘the disappearance of the other.’ Indeed, the other(‘s body) is simulated/disappeared through using ‘cybertechnologies.’ This can be a new way of looking at the other(‘s body) which the researcher seeks to examine in this study.
1.3.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study, reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) in the light of Jean Baudrillard’s theories, is to indicate that the technological world is not just the world of ideas, dreams, and fantasies, but it is the world of “simulacra” in which anything might be “simulated.” Therefore, the researcher intends to examine every aspects of Gibson’s technological world by finding the traces of Baudrillardian theories regarding ‘power,’ ‘human,’ and ‘the other’ such as “the simulation of power” and “the disappearance of human beings,” and “the disappearance of the other.” Concerning “the simulation of power,” the researcher seeks to scrutinize the signs of ‘the simulation of power’ in Gibson’s novels. Indeed, one of the main purposes of this study is to illustrate how ‘the disappearance of the real power’ results in “the simulation of power” in Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy, and portray how Gibson’s novels are concerned with the idea that power no longer exists except as its own ‘simulacrum.’ Another purpose of this research is to demonstrate the paradoxical impacts of the progress of technology on the human (body) and the other(‘s body). As a result, the researcher intends to examine the main causes of the disappearance/ simulation of the human body and the other’s body in Gibson’s novels with having recourse to Baudrillard’s theories regarding “simulation” and “disappearance.” In conclusion, the researcher aims to enhance a deeper understanding of Baudrillard’s “hyperreality,” “simulation,” “simulacrum,” and “disappearance” by finding the traits of Baudrillard’s ideas in Gibson’s technological world (a microcosm) of his novels; Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988), and relating them to the real world (a macrocosm).
1.3.4 Research Questions
Regarding the previous argument, this research is an attempt to find the answers of the following questions:
1. How is “the simulation of power” portrayed in Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)? Do the novels reinforce or resist “the absence of the real power?”
2. What is the significance of “the hallucinatory signs of power,” such as the Artificial Intelligences and Voodoo gods in Gibson’s Trilogy?
3. How is “the circularization of power” among the different characters delineated in Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)? To what extent does “the circularization of power” put an end to the localization of instances and poles in these novels?
4. Is “the panoptic system” a stable system in Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy? How is “the panoptic system” violated in Count Zero (1986)?
5. What role do the cameras in Angie’s residence play to show the end of the panoptic system in Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)?
6. What are the consequences of “toxin sacs” in Case’s body in Neuromancer (1984)? Is there any relationship between “toxin sacs” and atomic bombs?
7. How is ‘the metamorphosis of the human body to the post-human body’ pictured in Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)? To what extent do ‘cybertechnologies’ alter the human body and humanity in these novels?
8. Do ‘cyborg technologies,’ such as implants and prostheses picture human beings as superhuman or inhuman in Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy? How does genetic engineering question the human body as ‘the original one’? To what extent does cosmetic surgery illustrate the “hyperreality” of the human body?
9. Is ‘cyberspace’ just a realm of mind? To what extent do the characters transcend the mind/body duality through using ‘cyberspace technologies’? How do they elucidate the “disappearance/simulation” of the human (body) in Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy?
10. How does ‘the process of following the other’ result in ‘the transparency of the other(‘s body)’ and ‘the disappearance of the other(‘s body)’ at the same time in Neuromancer (1984) and Count Zero (1986)?
11. What is the relationship between ‘the simulation of the other(‘s body)’ and ‘the disappearance of the other(‘s body)’ in Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)?
1.4 Review of Literature
As the previous arguments reveal, this study is focused on Baudrillardian theories which are scrutinized in William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988). Therefore, the researcher seeks to review Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation (1994) because of the important notions that Baudrillard explains in this book, such as “simulacra,” “simulation,” “hyperreality,” “the hallucination of power,” “the circularization of power,” “the end of panopticon,” “the simulation of terror,” etc. For instance, the researcher intends to focus on “the hallucination of power” because Gibson uses this strategy to show that there is no more power in his novels. Another important notion is “the circularization of power” between characters in the novels. Therefore, the researcher seeks to review “The End of the Panopticon,” the eight part of the first chapter. In this part, Baudrillard explains the positions of the dominator and the dominated as the unlocatable positions. He believes that “there is no instance of power…power is something that circulates and whose source can no longer be located” (Baudrillard, S & S 27). Then, the researcher intends to review the last part of the first chapter; “The Orbital and the Nuclear” in order to show that the “toxin sacs” in Neuromancer (1984) are like atomic bombs. According to Baudrillard, atomic bombs are made for establishing a system of security and control (S & S 28).
Another important source of this study is Jean Baudrillard’s The Vital Illusion (2000). The first chapter of this book; “The Final Solution: Cloning Beyond the Human and Inhuman,” deals with Baudrillardian theories concerning “human,” “inhuman,” and “the disappearance of human beings” through technological medium. The researcher seeks to focus on this chapter in order to show that how different characters in Gibson’s novels alter the definition of the original human beings through technology. The next source is Jean Baudrillard’s Forget Foucault (2007). This book presents Baudrillard’s theories concerning power. Indeed, Baudrillard challenges Michel Foucault’s theories, specifically his theories regarding “power” and “sexual desire” in this book. Another one is Jean Baudrillard’s The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena (1993). The researcher seeks to focus on the second part of this book; “Radical Otherness” since it deals with Baudrillard’s theories concerning “the other.”
Moreover, the researcher intends to review three other books by Jean Baudrillard, Screen Out (2002), The Perfect Crime (1996), and Why Hasn’t Everything already disappeared? (2009) in order to know his ideas regarding “reality,” “virtual reality,” “simulation,” “hyperreality,” “disappearance,” etc. Another source for this study is Baudrillard Live: Selected Interviews (2003). It is the collection of Baudrillard’s interviews. It is a valuable source to know Baudrillard’s complex ideas regarding a wide range of subjects. The next one is Jean Baudrillard’s Selected Writings (1988) which is edited and introduced by Mark Poster. It is the collection of Baudrillard’s main writings.
Richard J. Lane’s Jean Baudrillard (2001), a book published by Routledge, is one of the sources of this study. The book provides an introduction to Baudrillard’s theories from his reworking of Marxism to his ideas regarding “simulation,” “hyperreal,” “technology,” etc. Jean Baudrillard: Fatal Theories (2008) is another source of this study. The book contains Baudrillard’s key concepts (simulation, disappearance, symbolic exchange, etc.) and his radical strategies (escalation, seduction, fatality, etc). It also includes two important essays by Baudrillard. The other sources which provide introductions to Baudrillard’s theories are Paul Hegarty’s Jean Baudrillard: Live Theory (2004) and William Pawlett’s Jean Baudrillard.
Searching in several major databases, the researcher was unable to find any papers discussing specifically William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988) from a Baudrillardian approach; however, the ideas discussed in the following studies were of great help.
The first one is a thesis by Lesley McDonald Sargoy from Hafstra University; “Revisions of Baudrillardian Hyperreality: From the Renaissance to the Modern Age.” Although the major focus of this thesis is to investigate the relevance of Jean Baudrillard’s “three orders of simulacra” to the reproducibility of art through technologies, it provides an understanding of Baudrillard’s ideas regarding “hyperreality,” “simulation,” and “simulacra.” Sargoy claims that the history of “simulation” and “simulacra” dates back to Plato’s time. And also, Sargoy believes that before Baudrillad, there are some philosophers, such as Benjamin, Deleuze, Foucault, Debord, and McLuhan who refers to “simulation” and “simulacra.”
The second one is a thesis by Asmahan Sallah from Texas A & M University; “Chasing the Trace of the Sacred: Postmodern Spiritualities in Contemporary American Fiction.” Although the thesis is about “spiritualities,” in the fourth chapter, Sallah explains