PJAS 12 Autumn-2

Lil Hayes
The Future’s Overrated: How History and Ahistoricity Collide in William Gibson’s Bridge Trilogy
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 12 (Autumn 2018), pp. 275-290

Abstract: In 1988, Gibson “asserted his interest in the how’s and why’s of memory, the ways it defines who and what we are, in how easily it’s subject to revision” (qtd. in McCaffery 224). While this statement is a reflection on his appropriation of human memory in the Sprawl trilogy, it is also a useful standpoint from which to assess the interplay between history and memory
in the Bridge trilogy. In my view, this trilogy is primarily concerned with the implications of postmodernization for historical perception. Moreover, it serves to explore how the proliferation of the spectacle has significant effects on social memory, the ramification of which is the eventual effacement of memory’s value, and its substitution by commodified images. Through a close assessment of Gibson’s architecturally familiar landscape and the perseverance of nostalgia in an ahistorical society, I argue that in this postmodern world, history as a concept is not obsolete despite the death of historical perspective that postmodernism ideologically affirms. In fact, by creating a world that simultaneously experiences the “abandonment of history” and the “false consciousness of time” (Debord 90), Gibson is able to convey the idea that historical perspective, no matter how unreliable, is the only means through which to fully understand not only the past, but also the present, and, indeed, the future.

Keywords: ahistorical, historicity, nostalgia, spectacle, commodification, postmodern

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.12/2/2018.02

Full article