“with Enough Soap, You Could Blow Up the World.” Soap, Civilization and Questions of Authenticity in Chuck Palahniuk´S and David Fincher´S Fight Club

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Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Neuphilologisches Institut
Oberseminar:
Authenticity, Simulation and American Literature
Prof. Dr. Jochen Achilles
Winter Semester 2010/ 2011

“With enough soap, you could blow up the world.” Soap, Civilization and Questions of Authenticity in Chuck Palahniuk´s and David Fincher´s Fight Club

(AE)

March 10, 2011

Johannes Pfundt
Scherenbergstr. 7
97082 Würzburg
johannes.pfundt@gmx.de

Amerikanistik, Kulturwissenschaften der englischsprachigen Länder, Pädagogik (M.A.) 3rd Semester
Matr. No. 1584685
Table of Content

Introduction.......................................................................................................3 2.The Mythology of Soap....................................................................................4 3.Consumerism....................................................................................................5 4. Identity and Authenticity...................................................................................7 4.1 The Body in extremis............................................................................9 4.2Unreliable Narration...........................................................................11 5.Soap versus Civilization.................................................................................12 6.Conclusion......................................................................................................14 7.Works Cited.....................................................................................................15

1.Introduction

“Soap is civilisation.” Unilever Company Slogan (Zurndorfer 1)

For most human-beings it has become part of their daily life to begin the day with a series of hygienic routines: from taking a shower, to brushing teeth, to clipping finger- and toenails to the extensive use of cosmetics and dressing with fresh, clean clothes, the act of cleaning the body and an overall clean appearance has become internalized. If one was stop these procedures it would not take very long to experience social repercussions. A certain amount of cleanliness and hygiene is commonly expected these days. Hygiene and beauty are deeply embedded into Western civilization, although the “regular washing of clothes and bodies with soap is a relatively recent phenomenon.” (Corbett, 54) According to Corbett the “realization of the correlation between cleanliness and health, hygiene and beauty” (54) have paved the way for the ascension of soap in contemporary society. Since Chuck Palahniuk´s novel Fight Club was first published in 1996 it has become a worldwide bestseller and is widely perceived as a cult-novel. The popularity of Fight Club is also largely due to David Fincher´s famous film adaption starring Hollywood superstars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in the leading parts. Soap is a key feature of Palahniuk´s novel as well as Fincher´s movie. It has also been heavily used as a marketing tool for the latter one, shining from the covers of DVD´s, posters and websites (see Corbett 53). However, the significance of soap for Fight Club goes far beyond mere symbolism. Dominant themes in Fight Club such as consumerism, violence and the question of authenticity can all be linked to the leitmotif of soap. Juxtaposing the questionable hypothesis of Unilever´s slogan with the events in the novel Fight Club stands at the core of this paper. Drawing on theoretical essays from Roland Barthes and Jean Baudrillard, the aim of this paper shall be to scrutinize and analyze the role of soap in Fight Club with all its implications ranging from violence to authenticity and civilization and its destruction. 2. The Mythology of Soap

“You have to see,” Tyler says, “how the first soap was made of heroes” (Palahniuk, 78)

In 1957 Roland Barthes published a collection in French entitled Mythologies. Contained therein...
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