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.
In David Foster Wallace’s fiction, long-standing philosophical debates – does language describe the world accurately? can I explain myself to others? what are the values and dangers of self-consciousness? how can I lead a meaningful life? – play a central role. In fact the need to explore these debates as representing urgent problems of contemporary human existence is what motivated Wallace’s ‘occupational switch’ from philosophy to literature. This volume presents new essays by prominent and promising Wallace scholars that show that Wallace’s work originates in-between philosophy and literature. Its philosophical dimension is not a mere supplement or decoration, a finishing touch to perfect his literary writing; nor is it the other way around: a pre-established truth the literary serves to illustrate. Rather in Wallace the two discursive modes are always already intertwined in a never-ending process of cross-fertilization. This approach constitutes an investigative perspective that allows for a variety of theories and methods to shed light on the constitutive in-betweenness of Wallace’s oeuvre – instead of imposing a preconceived methodology or a theoretical context that univocally homogenizes each single reading. The essays included offer a plurality of interpretations of Wallace’s engagement with philosophy and literature. Organized in three parts – ‘General perspectives’, ‘Consciousness, self, and others’, and ‘Embodiment, gender, and sexuality’ – this volume breaks new ground: it shows that Wallace’s texts, characters, story-worlds, linguistic and formal choices, plots and concepts are all to be read ‘between’ philosophy and literature, and thus provides a highly valuable contribution to the field of Wallace studies.
This book has argued that ‘quiet’ is a literary aesthetic, used frequently in contemporaryAmericanfiction 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
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 contemporaryAmericanfiction
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 American Novelist’ are
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.
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.
Best known for a trilogy of historical novels set in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, Marilynne Robinson is a prolific essayist, teacher, and public speaker, routinely celebrated as a singular author of contemporary American fiction. This collection intervenes in the author’s growing critical reputation, pointing to new and exciting links between the author, the historical settings of her novels, and the contemporary themes of her fictional, educational, and theoretical work. Touching on ongoing debates in race, gender, and environmental politics, as well as education, democracy, and the state of critical theory, New Perspectives on Marilynne Robinson demonstrates the wider secular and popular impact of the author’s work, building on the largely theological focus of previous criticism to suggest new and innovative interpretations of her oeuvre. The collection’s four sections are dedicated to: Robinson’s use of form and style; her exploration of the relationship between gender and the environment; her use of history and the intersection of race, rights, and religion in her work; and a discussion of Robinson and her contemporaries. As such, the collection argues for a reconsideration of Robinson within the field of American and English Studies, by bringing together 16 new, vibrant, and undoubtedly contemporary analyses of her work. Authors include: Bridget Bennett, Richard King, Sarah Churchwell, Jack Baker, Maria Elena Carpintero Torres-Quevedo, Daniel King, Anna Maguire Elliott, Makayla Steiner, Lucy Clarke, Christopher Lloyd, Tessa Roynon, Alexander Engebretson, Emily Hammerton-Barry, Steve Gronert Ellerhoff, Kathryn E. Engebretson, Paul Jenner, and Rachel Sykes."
argue that, firstly, it is crucial to understand something of its importance in classical philosophy. Secondly, I suggest that portrayals of friendship between men in contemporaryAmericanfiction need to be contextualised within the long literary and cultural history of male friendship’s distinctive, integral yet contested place in the US civic imaginary. And thirdly, I argue that the resurgence of interest in male friendship as a literary theme belongs to a broader cultural moment generally overlooked by literary critics, a moment in which not only novelists but
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Jerome Klinkowitz, Literary