This book is a full-length study of contemporary American fiction of ‘passing’. It takes as its point of departure the return of racial and gender passing in the 1990s in order to make claims about wider trends in contemporary American fiction. The book accounts for the return of tropes of passing in fiction by Phillip Roth, Percival Everett, Louise Erdrich, Danzy Senna, Jeffrey Eugenides and Paul Beatty. These writers are attracted to the trope because passing narratives have always foregrounded the notion of textuality in relation to the legibility of black subjects passing as white. The central argument of the book, then, is that contemporary narratives of passing are concerned with articulating and unpacking an analogy between passing and authorship. The book promises to inaugurate dialogue on the relationships between identity, postmodernism and authorship in contemporary American fiction.
Louise Erdrich is one of the most critically and commercially successful Native American writers. This book is a fully comprehensive treatment of her writing, analysing the textual complexities and diverse contexts of her work to date. Drawing on the critical archive relating to Erdrich's work and Native American literature, it explores the full depth and range of her authorship. Breaking Erdrich's oeuvre into several groupings – poetry, early and late fiction, memoir and children's writing – it develops individual readings of both the critical arguments and the texts themselves. The book argues that Erdrich's work has developed an increasing political acuity to the relationship between ethics and aesthetics in Native American literature, and her insistence on being read as an American writer is shown to be in constant and mutually inflecting dialogue with her Ojibwe heritage.
This book takes as its starting point Lethem’s characteristic collisions and mutations of genres – detective fiction and science fiction; road narrative and science fiction; coming-of-age stories on extraterrestrial frontiers. It proceeds chronologically and takes as its main focus Lethem’s novels, with reference to related short stories. The chronological approach is appropriate because it shows how the bold, rather ostentatious genre clashes in early novels make way for more subtle genre mergings later on. It also indicates the shifts in tone and emphasis as Lethem moves from LA, where the early novels were written, to Brooklyn, his childhood home, and back again. The book analyses the specific purposes of Lethem’s genre experiments. Despite claiming in interview that he has never really grown up, and that he writes the way he does partly to make himself laugh, it is argued that he uses genre frameworks to question the organising principles through which individuals confront or avoid the complexities of their lives, principles which may require a reduction in freedom or individual self-expression. As such his subversion of genre is not simply postmodern game-playing, but in its own way politically motivated.
Simon Malpas and Andrew Taylor
Over a writing career spanning more than fifty years, Thomas Pynchon has been at the forefront of America's engagement with postmodern literary possibilities. This book explores the ways in which postmodernity, and its embrace of epistemological, ethical and ontological aporia, is put to work in the service of profound reflections on the political possibilities of narrative. Pynchon remains the most elusive and important writer of American postmodernity. V., Thomas Pynchon's first novel, was published in 1963. Within the dialectic of freedom and constraint , Pynchon's characters find themselves in networks of signification they struggle to understand but which urge them to make connections and establish forms of relationship. Of the stories reprinted in Thomas Pynchon's Slow Learner, the book discusses three in detail: 'Low-lands', 'The Secret Integration' and 'Entropy'. It examines how critics have argued about the ways in which Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 sets it in the contexts of debates about modernism and postmodernism. Published in 1973, Gravity's Rainbow has frequently been described by critics as Pynchon's most complex, challenging and experimental novel. Vineland describes how the paranoid sensibility is encouraged and maintained by structures of power that require the identification and persecution of an enemy who is variously defined across the political history of the United States. Mason & Dixon, published in 1997, takes the reader back to the period of the country's founding and the historical densities of eighteenth-century colonial culture. Against the Day is an epic novel of global and other-worldly proportions.
This book provides an extended analysis of Paul Auster's essays, poetry, fiction, films and collaborative projects. It explores his key themes of identity; language and writing; metropolitan living and community; and storytelling and illusion. By tracing how Auster's representations of New York and city life have matured from a position of urban nihilism to qualified optimism, the book shows how the variety of forms he works in influences the treatment of his central concerns. The chapters are organised around gradually extending spaces to reflect the way in which Auster's work broadens its focus, beginning with the poet's room and finishing with the global metropolis of New York: his home city and often his muse. The book uses Auster's published and unpublished literary essays to explain the shifts from the dense and introspective poems of the 1970s, through the metropolitan fictions of the 1980s and early 1990s, to the relatively optimistic and critically acclaimed films, and his return to fiction in recent years.
Orphanhood, kinship, and cultural memory in contemporary American novels
Maria Holmgren Troy, Elizabeth Kella and Helena Wahlström
Making Home explores the orphan child as a trope in contemporary US fiction, arguing that in times of perceived national crisis concerns about American identity, family, and literary history are articulated around this literary figure. The book focuses on orphan figures in a broad, multi-ethnic range of contemporary fiction by Barbara Kingsolver, Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Cunningham, Jonathan Safran Foer, John Irving, Kaye Gibbons, Octavia Butler, Jewelle Gomez, and Toni Morrison. It also investigates genres as carriers of cultural memory, looking particularly at the captivity narrative, historical fiction, speculative fiction, the sentimental novel, and the bildungsroman. From a decisively literary perspective, Making Home engages socio-political concerns such as mixed-race families, child welfare, multiculturalism, and racial and national identity, as well as shifting definitions of familial, national, and literary home. By analyzing how contemporary novels both incorporate and resist gendered and raced literary conventions, how they elaborate on symbolic and factual meanings of orphanhood, and how they explore kinship beyond the nuclear and/or adoptive family, this book offers something distinctly new in American literary studies. It is a crucial study for students and scholars interested in the links between literature and identity, questions of inclusion and exclusion in national ideology, and definitions of family and childhood.
This is a study of the contemporary American novelist, Philip Roth. Reading alongside a number of his contemporaries and focusing particularly on his later fiction, it offers a view of Roth as an intellectually adventurous and stylistically brilliant writer who constantly reinvents himself in surprising ways. At the heart of this book are a number of readings of Roth's works both in terms of their relationships with each other and with fiction by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Thomas Pynchon, Tim O'Brien, Bret Easton Ellis, Stanley Elkin, Howard Jacobson and Jonathan Safran Foer. The book identifies as a thread running through all of Roth's work the use of paradox, both as a rhetorical device and as an organising intellectual and ideological principle.
This book is a full-length study of Douglas Coupland, one of the twenty-first century's most innovative and influential novelists. It explores the prolific first decade-and-a-half of his career, from Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) to JPod (2006), a period in which he published ten novels and four significant volumes of non-fiction. Emerging in the last decade of the twentieth century—amidst the absurd contradictions of instantaneous global communication and acute poverty—Coupland's novels, short stories, essays, and visual art have intervened in specifically contemporary debates regarding authenticity, artifice, and art. This book explores Coupland's response, in ground-breaking novels such as Microserfs, Girlfriend in a Coma and Miss Wyoming, to some of the most pressing issues of our times.
Civic reading practice in contemporary American and Canadian writing
Can reading make us better citizens? This book sheds light on how the act of reading can be mobilised as a powerful civic tool in service of contemporary civil and political struggles for minority recognition, rights, and representation in North America. Crossing borders and queering citizenship reimagines the contours of contemporary citizenship by connecting queer and citizenship theories to the idea of an engaged reading subject. This book offers a new approach to studying the act of reading, theorises reading as an integral element of the basic unit of the state: the citizen. By theorising the act of reading across borders as a civic act that queers citizenship, the book advances an alternative model of belonging through civic readerly engagement. Exploring work by seven US, Mexican, Canadian, and Indigenous authors, including Gloria Anzaldúa, Dorothy Allison, Gregory Scofield, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Erín Moure, Junot Díaz, and Yann Martel, the book offers sensitive interpretations of how reading can create citizenship practices that foreground and value recognition, rights, and representation for all members of a political system.