The Doom of Clowns: A Novel and Critical Essay

  • Russell G. Heywood

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The Doom of Clowns is a novel which satirically subverts voices emerging in the context of neoliberalism since the 1970s, challenging dominant conceptions of the self and society to suggest a sustainable, holistic culture. As interdisciplinary arts practice, the novel develops personal experience using theoretical research and critical reflection. The first question used in reflecting upon the novel is, can one use fiction to disrupt neoliberal discourse? The critical essay examines the use of satire and Bakhtin’s dialogic method in challenging monolithic narratives. The development of selfreflexive satire in the story is also considered, in relation to the author’s role, the politics of genre, autoethnography and the social contexts in which the novel was produced. The second question used in reflecting upon the research is, what does it mean to be human? The tale of an extraterrestrial who thinks he is a human, living through the neoliberal age, the novel follows Arthur as his Farfaphian colleague Guinevere attempts to awaken him. The novel explores competing secular and religious worldviews, animal rights, cognitive dissonance, ambiguity, alternative communities and a possibly transhuman future. The third research question is, how does one use fiction to connect personal experience to wider cultural and political issues? A Speculative auto-satire approach is developed that draws upon personal experience to fictionally critique and subvert dominant discourse. In developing this approach, I explore how my experience of living with a mother who worked as a children’s clown is used in the novel. Theoretical perspectives on the role of the clown, the dialogic and Luce Irigaray’s perceptions on the cultural suppression of the maternal and feminine are examined. My participation in spiritual, therapeutic and activist groups over the last twenty years is also related to this question. The critical essay reflects on how my holistic voice became more reflexive and humorous, to effectively connect personal experience with wider political issues. The Doom of Clowns is a contribution to a tradition of satirical fiction that includes The Metamorphoses by Apuleius, Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Matt Haig’s The Humans. Warning against neoliberal conceptions of scientific progress and economic growth, the novel develops a reflexive, satirical approach that blurs fact and fiction to connect personal experience with wider social issues. The Doom of Clown promotes a holistic paradigm that engages with a call for social justice.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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