Tom’s European Fantasies Commodifying Authenticity in The Talented Mr. Ripley

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Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) allegorizes the American project of restructuring postwar Europe into its mirror image. In this study, Tom Ripley, Highsmith’s famed sociopathic impersonator, is read as a personified simulacrum of American hegemony that erases the original referent of humanity and history. It will investigate the way Tom’s self-effacement through his high-stake performance reflects the waning historicity of his cultural surroundings. Through his incorporation of Dickie Greenleaf’s intimate “moods” and Europe’s authentic “atmospheres” into a synthetic personality, Tom also transforms his European dwellings such as his Venetian palazzo into a spatial simulacrum without historical depth or continuity. This paper will shed light on how the globalization of American culture during the Cold War fabricated a new consumerist subjectivity that devours and incorporates other cultures.

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