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Author: Rachel Sykes

This book defines quiet as an aesthetic of narrative that is driven by reflective principles and places Marilynne Robinson's work within a vibrant contemporary American trend. It makes two critical interventions. First, it maps the neglected history of quiet fictions and argues that from Hester Prynne to Clarissa Dalloway, from Bartleby to William Stoner, quiet characters fill the novel in the Western tradition. Second, it demonstrates how the novel's quiet undercurrent functions as an aesthetic in contemporary American fiction. The book engages with the problem of 'event' as a noisy narrative device and discusses the opposition of quiet texts to narratives written in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, an event that heralded to many the beginning of a noisy century. It discusses the subjective depictions of temporality portrayed in the fiction of Marilynne Robinson and Paul Harding. The book then argues that cognitive fictions by Richard Powers and Lynne Tillman expand the focus of the quiet novel. By expanding the focus, it uncovers the complex and often discordant recesses of human consciousness and challenges the traditional division between what is internally and externally felt. The book brings together the strands of this monograph to discuss what happens to the quiet novel when Teju Cole and Ben Lerner set their quiet novels in the noisy environment of the city. By paying attention to the quieter aspects of everyday experience, the quiet novel also reveals how quiet can be a multi-faceted state of existence, which is communicative and expressive.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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Orphanhood, kinship, and cultural memory in contemporary American novels

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.

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Rachel Sykes

suggesting that the novelist has nothing to say or that the quiet of the text is representative of the author’s failure to speak. However, as Rebecca Solnit suggests, ‘Books are solitudes in which we meet’ and although reading is best 2 The quiet contemporary American novel conducted in silence, the quiet of the novel is better conceived as a mode of conversation that occurs at a reduced volume rather than the complete absence of sound.2 Philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy writes similarly about the act of listening: ‘[t]o be listening is always to be on the edge of meaning.’3

in The quiet contemporary American novel
Open Access (free)
Fetters of an American farmgirl
R.J. Ellis

4 Our Nig: fetters of an American farmgirl R.J. Ellis From her who ever was and still’s a slave (Mary Collier, 1739)1 Following its rediscovery by Henry Louis Gates Jr in 1982, Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig (1859) was quickly identified as a double first – the first African-American novel published by a woman and the first AfricanAmerican novel published in the USA. It was also rapidly located within its ante-bellum abolitionist literary contexts. Plainly Our Nig draws upon Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and slave narrative writing of this period.2 My

in Special relationships
Passing, racial identity and the literary marketplace
Sinéad Moynihan

focuses on the literary marketplace in the twentieth century, the demands made of African American writers by publishers, critics and readers at the beginning of the twenty-first century cannot be fully historicised without reference to the nineteenth-century publishing industry. The discussion that follows foregrounds a nineteenth-century African American text ‘discovered’ at the turn of the twenty-first (Hannah Crafts’s The Bondwoman’s Narrative) and a contemporary African American novel (Percival Everett’s Erasure) in order to reveal the extent to which

in Passing into the present
Morality, mortality and masculinity in Sabbath’s Theater
David Brauner

4 Old men behaving badly: morality, mortality and masculinity in Sabbath’s Theater For a pure sense of being tumultuously alive, you can’t beat the nasty side of existence. (Roth 1995: 247, italics in original) To take what’s thought to be the disgraceful side of men – and by no means to apologize for it . . . But the circus, the circus of being a man – it’s a circus, and the ringleader is the phallus. (Roth quoted in Shostak 2004: 21) [H]e didn’t have a life, except at the cemetery. (Roth 1995: 51) In an ‘interview with [him]self’ on The Great American Novel

in Philip Roth
Author: Michael Kalisch

This book explores how the contemporary American novel has revived a long literary and political tradition of imagining male friendship as interlinked with the promises and paradoxes of democracy in the United States. In the last decades of the twentieth century, not only novelists but philosophers, critical theorists, and sociologists rediscovered the concept of friendship as a means of scrutinising bonds of national identity. This book reveals how friendship, long exiled from serious political philosophy, returned as a crucial term in late twentieth-century communitarian debates about citizenship, while, at the same time, becoming integral to continental philosophy’s exploration of the roots of democracy, and, in a different guise, to histories of sexuality. Moving innovatively between these disciplines, this important study brings into dialogue the work of authors rarely discussed together – including Philip Roth, Paul Auster, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Dinaw Mengestu, and Teju Cole – and advances a compelling new account of the political and intellectual fabric of the contemporary American novel.

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Maria Holmgren Troy, Elizabeth Kella, and Helena Wahlström

The coda of this study summarizes findings about the literary orphan figure in contemporary American novels. Through brief analyses of Tim Gautreaux’s The Missing (2009), Chang-Rae Lee’s The Surrendered (2010), Sapphire’s The Kid (2011), Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child (2012), and Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son (2012), it demonstrates the continued relevance of this figure for literary imaginings of home.

in Making home
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Rachel Sykes

Conclusion This book has argued that ‘quiet’ is a literary aesthetic, used frequently in contemporary American fiction to privilege reflection and contemplation as a way of engaging with the present. Tracing a long history of quiet in Anglo-American literature and focusing more ­specifically on American works published since 2000, I have argued that the contemporary American novel is quiet when its narrative is focalised through the mind of a quiet character and set in a quiet location where the protagonist has the time and space to reflect on their present

in The quiet contemporary American novel