Literary Criticism

American Fiction in Transition: Observer-Hero Narrative, the by Adam Kelly

By Adam Kelly

American Fiction in Transition is a research of the observer-hero narrative, a hugely major yet significantly overlooked style of the yank novel. during the lens of this transitional style, the publication explores the Nineties in terms of debates in regards to the finish of postmodernism, and connects the last decade to different transitional sessions in US literature. Novels through 4 significant modern writers are tested: Philip Roth, Paul Auster, E. L. Doctorow and Jeffrey Eugenides. every one novel has an analogous constitution: an observer-narrator tells the tale of a massive individual in his lifestyles who has died. yet each one tale is both concerning the fight to inform the tale, to discover sufficient capability to relate the transitional caliber of the hero's existence. In taking part in out this narrative fight, every one novel thereby addresses the wider challenge of historic transition, an issue that marks the legacy of the postmodern period in American literature and tradition

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Additional info for American Fiction in Transition: Observer-Hero Narrative, the 1990s, and Postmodernism

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The rural Louisiana “quarter” in which most of the novel takes place does not resemble the urban and suburban settings of the novels by Roth, Auster, Eugenides, and Doctorow, and the racial concerns that occupy Gaines draw little on postmodern ideas of identity performance; indeed, in A Lesson Before Dying notions of racial inheritance are relied upon to provide the core drama of the story (whereas in The Human Stain, for instance, such notions will be problematized). At the level of style—and as the allusion to Dubliners might suggest—Wiggins’s narrative is one of “scrupulous meanness,” in Joyce’s phrase, exemplifying the minimalist conventions re-popularized in American writing by Raymond Carver’s fiction of the 1970s and 1980s.

Every text that is birthed can only become an example of a genre by inscribing itself with a mark or gesture that does not itself belong to the genre in question; as Derrida puts it, “The trait that marks membership inevitably divides” (227). The need to mark itself, or to be marked, as part of a genre means that any text is both inside and outside that genre at the same time: “The re-mark of belonging does not belong” (230). And so, for Derrida, the question of genre is never one of belonging, but of participation: a text would not belong to any genre.

This means that the distinctions I have been asking about in this Introduction 23 section, for example whether a racially inscribed or gendered text might be employing or subverting the genre, can be queried on the basis that they imply a set of static conventions identified with an institutional law. If we conceive of texts as singular acts of participation, then we should reconceive the notion of genre as a dynamic concept, put to work differently and remade with each example. In a similar way, my readings of individual novels in the chapters of this study should be understood not simply as exemplifying an overarching theoretical methodology, but as acts that participate in a developing critical process.

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