Show Less
Restricted access

The Production of Subjectivity in «The Diamond Age» by Neal Stephenson


Sarah Jonckheere

The book brings to light Neal Stephenson’s answer to the technologically induced crisis in identity. The author of this book analyses the ethnocultural, technological, and ideological skeins that make up the biopolitical production of the self. The coming-of-age novel «The Diamond Age» reflects the processes surrounding the emergence of conscience. Through his inspired recycling of cultural traditions, Stephenson’s ethico-aesthetic engagement with technology, mass media, and literature advocates an epistemological change in being. This essay’s use of affect theory shows how a specific work informs literary theory and thinking, and how literature goes beyond reflecting the «zeitgeist» by offering creative ways to apprehend technology.

Show Summary Details
Restricted access



Self-described as a “bad correspondent” and as a “sociomediapath” on his official website, Neal Stephenson is also – says he – “an idiot savant whose ‘superpower’ […] is writing novels” (“Bad Correspondent,” n. pag.; “Why I Am a Sociomediapath,” n. pag.). Rapier-like, jauntily alkaline, and vitriolically bubbly as this self-ennobling statement certainly is, there might be more to Neal Stephenson than he himself is willing to recognize.

An American novelist fatefully born on Halloween 1959, Neal Stephenson is the son of a professor of electrical engineering and the grandson of a physics professor. On the maternal side of his scholarly lineage, his family was involved in biochemistry: his mother was a scientist who worked in a laboratory and his other grandfather was an academic. Stephenson’s interest in STEM and science-related topics most probably accrued in this environment, and, one can assume, it was further fostered with the advent of the (modern) computer, a then-nascent – but promising and budding – piece of technology by the time he sought a higher education. Predictably enough, upon entering college, Stephenson decided to specialize in physics but, unpredictably enough, he soon bifurcated; he preferred switching fields of study to pursue a B.A. in Geography (while still retaining a minor in physics) only so that he could “scam more free time on his university’s mainframe computer.”1 At loss to find a job matching his untested and unrecognized skillset as a geographer/physicist after he graduated in 1981, he took to dabbling for a while in diverse...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.