The quiet contemporary American novel

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.

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‘A stylishly written monograph that is packed with interesting readings of contemporary American novels.
The Cambridge Quarterly

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