Melodrama, Mystery, and the Nightmare of History in Jessie Fauset‘s Plum Bun
This essay discusses how African-American novelist Jessie Fauset used the Gothic motif of a hidden history to critique the melodramatic happy ending of her best novel, one set in New York city in the 1920s. What undermines the ‘moral legibility’ of melodrama is the Gothic implications of an unsolved crime in the past, one that, ironically, continues to haunts the ‘New Negro’ of the Harlem Renaissance who claims to have reinvented him or herself in the modern city.
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.
spleen, for Americannovelistic modernism. American Pastoral is thus not only an
attempt at construing the normative fall of America, in so doing it means to provide
an archaeology of the very modernism Roth has been practising throughout his career;
the fall of the dream is, at the same time, the undermining of the forms of representation of the realist novel as providing the epic of the modern world. If dissonance,
formally, is to become the bearer of a secular ideal, then its claim must be about the
Melancholy as form
relation between collapsing ideality
again and again, revisiting old hunting
grounds and breaking into new ones; honing, refining, sharpening
and expanding his armoury.
Writing about any living artist presents certain difficulties: the
writing is still evolving, the reputation built on that career being revised
as each new work appears. Writing on contemporary American fiction
is particularly problematic because it is a very crowded field and one
which is especially susceptible to the fluctuations of literary-critical
fashion; new contenders for the title of ‘Great AmericanNovelist’ are
Maria Holmgren Troy, Elizabeth Kella and Helena Wahlström
century and the first of the twenty-first.
The cultural work that literary orphans perform today, we propose,
responds to and intervenes in social and discursive challenges to
American identity in an era of new social movements, culture wars,
minority and gay rights, alternative families, globalization, and
terrorism. We attempt to show the ways that contemporary Americannovelists use the orphan as a figure of difference in order to interrogate normative definitions of family and nation, and to sketch their
possible re-formulations. In doing so
The material production of American literature in nineteenth-century Britain
novel’s American identity even whilst situating it in a transatlantic tradition. The
BSN introduction, attributed to ‘O. C’, introduces Brown as ‘one of the
earliest Americannovelists, and inferior to none of his countrymen who succeeded him’
(Schiller and Brown, 1831 : v). However, the writer quickly adds that
‘it might truly be said, that in originality he has not been surpassed by any
inventor of story of whatever age or country’: Brown is situated first nationally and
then globally (p. v). The
development of the post-war American novel in particular.
Roth’s place in the canon now seems assured; there is a general
consensus that he is the most important living Americannovelist and
a growing body of opinion that he is the best post-war American writer.
The only major literary prize that has so far eluded him is the Nobel
Prize for Literature, and if I were a gambling man I would place a bet
on him winning that before long. I must confess to feeling a certain
ambivalence about this state of affairs. When I began writing on Roth
in 1990 (as part of my doctoral
whitewashed. This would be a portrait gallery
in which the possibility of misidentification had ceased, because the possibility
of description was over.
1 For a good summary of the history of the Cenci, and of the portrait’s reputation and
provenance theories, see Louise K. Barnett, ‘AmericanNovelists and the “Portrait
of Beatrice Cenci”’, New England Quarterly, 53 (1980), 168–83. For most of the
nineteenth century, the portrait was, in the words of Stuart Curran, ‘one of the most
The face of Beatrice Cenci141
famous attractions of Rome; reproduced
Furphy’s Such Is Life (1944) and an oral-narrative tradition represented by Americannovelist Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man (1964). 55 John Hanrahan found the novel ‘consistently entertaining’ and ‘a lot of fun’ but felt disappointed because ‘Carey loses his way in the second half’. Carey’s characters ‘evaporate’ and the well-observed details of situation disintegrate as they ‘crash into a concrete wall of symbolism’. Nevertheless, Hanrahan applauded Carey for having ‘an eye and an ear that gets scenes just right’, testifying from the personal experience of the
this hard work peeks out in a quotation
Hollinghurst lifts from the Americannovelist Carl Van Vechten: ‘Almost
all of Firbank is quaint reading and enough to make your hair, even pubic
hair, stand on end when you understand it.’19 The knowing slant of this
camp dictum captures the indirect eroticism of Hollinghurst’s reading.
The inguinal innuendo of ‘quaint reading’ and, of course, those tingling
pubic hairs embody the incriminating hilarity of reading Firbank – what
Hollinghurst would call, in the title of a 2006 Northcliffe lecture, his