The Dark Century: 1946-2046
: Noir, Cyberpunk, and Asian Modernity

  • Tim Napper

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


From US-occupied Japan in 1946, to the end of two systems between China and Hong Kong in 2046, noir as an artistic and philosophical discourse has provided powerful insights into the impact of modernity across Southeast and East Asia. The Dark Century 1946 – 2046 is a dissertation in two parts—an essay and a work of fiction—that analyses under-explored noir, neo-noir, and cyberpunk narratives in film and literature. The research approach is multidisciplinary, incorporating creative practice, textual analysis, critical theory, and cultural studies. I argue that noir, neo-noir, and cyberpunk share a philosophical lineage, and provide a counter-hegemonic discourse on modernity.
While noir has found distinct local expressions in film and fiction, what links the global experience of seemingly disparate nations, East and West, is a context of rapid development, cultural loss, the alienating forces of economic capital, and the corrupt rule of a Leviathan state. Through examination of seminal works of transnational noir, I identify four archetypes within the noir discourse – Android, Gunslinger, Samurai, and the Private Eye – and argue they provide compelling and consistent insights into the impact of modernity across radically different cultures. Working from this basis, I propose a new definition of the narrative form. I also delineate the local noir traditions for four countries underrepresented in noir scholarship: Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and Vietnam. The creative artefact, Thirty-Six Streets, is a science-fiction noir thriller that aims to realise some of the noir themes relevant to transnational noir in general, and Vietnam in particular. The novel is focalised through Lin ‘The Silent One’ Vu, a gangster and sometime private investigator. Born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, everywhere an outsider; she lives in Chinese-occupied Hanoi, in the steaming, paranoid alleyways of the Old Quarter – known as the Thirty-Six Streets. Lin is drawn into the grand conspiracies of the neon gods: of regimes and mega-corporations, as they unleash dangerous new technologies in a quest for absolute power.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJen Webb (Supervisor) & Tony Eaton (Supervisor)

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