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This essay won second place in the 3rd Annual Open Books - Open Minds Student Conference at Rhode Island College.




The novel PYM by Mat Johnson seems on the surface to be a light-hearted, comedic, summer vacation easy read. It is parodic, but not in a cynical or harsh way, and it is relatively simple and often quite silly in its plot and structure. It would be easy to read PYM and not have any consideration of it as a piece of lasting or significant literature. There are, however, many elements in PYM that open it up to analysis, revealing an intricate and extremely well-constructed novel whose themes and implications carry a great deal of significance. Jean Baudrillard's theory of simulations opens a great deal of thought when applied to the novel. In the essay “Simulacra and Simulations,” written in 1981, Jean Baudrillard describes various ways in which reality interacts with illusion and man-made non-realities. Both simulacra and simulations are seen in the novel PYM. Many elements of the novel could be analyzed and viewed through the lens of Baudrillard's theory, but there are two examples that offer clear representations of both simulacra and a simulation. These two examples are the paintings of Thomas Karvel, and the biodome Karvel creates to physically manifest these paintings.


Second Place