'Cosmonaut of inner space', an existential enquiry into the writing of Alexander Trocchi

  • Gillian Anne Tasker

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis is the first to argue that existentialism is the very crux of Alexander Trocchi's work and his self-fashioning as a 'cosmonaut of inner space'. Using a lens of existential enquiry, it determines how and why being a 'cosmonaut of inner space' shaped Trocchi's oeuvre. This thesis makes use of a variety of sources - some previously unpublished - from archives including the Trocchi Papers at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. Chapter One contextualises Trocchi's developing interest in existential philosophy, first catalysed by his studies at the University of Glasgow, to his relocation from Glasgow to Paris in the early 1950s. The chapter highlights the notable impact that this relocation had on Trocchi's sensibility of radical subjectivity, and argues that existentialism became not an abstract philosophy but a strategic means to achieve existential freedom from authoritarian systems. Chapters Two and Three consider Trocchi alongside two of his most notable contemporaries, R. D. Laing and William Burroughs. All three men shared a profound belief in the authenticity and freedom offered by inner space, and in Chapter Two, I explore how this manifests in, and impacts upon, Trocchi's fictional characterisation using R. D. Laing's seminal existential theories. In Chapter Three I argue that Burroughs' and Trocchi's radical experimentalism - in both narcotics and literature - saw them break with the past practice of three writers with whom Trocchi self-identifies: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Baudelaire, Jean Cocteau. The chapter also asserts that Trocchi is even more extreme, or 'far out', than Burroughs because he continually sought to idealise and propagandise drug addiction throughout his multifaceted oeuvre. Chapter Four considers Trocchi's fictional work alongside Michel Foucault's theory of heterotopia - a space of dualism and displacement - to determine how Trocchi's characters spatially experience the world around them in existential and, through incorporating Maurice Merleau-Ponty, phenomenological terms.
Date of Award7 Oct 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorEleanor Bell (Supervisor) & Jonathan Hope (Supervisor)

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