American Fiction in Transition is a study of the observer-hero narrative, a highly significant but critically neglected genre of the American novel. Through the lens of this transitional genre, the book explores the 1990s in relation to debates about the end of postmodernism, and connects the decade to other transitional periods in US literature. Novels by four major contemporary writers are examined: Philip Roth, Paul Auster, E. L. Doctorow and Jeffrey Eugenides. Each novel has a similar structure: an observer-narrator tells the story of an important person in his life who has died. But each story is equally about the struggle to tell the story, to find adequate means to narrate the transitional quality of the hero's life. In playing out this narrative struggle, each novel thereby addresses the broader problem of historical transition, a problem that marks the legacy of the postmodern era in American literature and culture.
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About the Author
Adam Kelly is Lecturer in American Literature at the University of York, UK. He previously taught at Harvard University, where he was a postdoctoral fellow, and at University College Dublin. He is the author of American Fiction in Transition: Observer-Hero Narrative, the 1990s, and Postmodernism (Bloomsbury 2013), as well as numerous articles in edited collections and in journals including Twentieth-Century Literature, Studies in the Novel, Critique, and Philip Roth Studies.
Table of Contents
I Postmodernism in Eclipse: American Fiction in the 1990s
II Observer-Hero Narrative: Defining the Genre
III Observer-Hero Narrative: The American Dimension
IV Critical Issues: Race, Gender, Genre
V The Intellectual Background: Derrida, Jameson, Narrative and Decision
Chapter 1 Tragedy and Secrecy: Philip Roth's The Human Stain
Chapter 2 Testimony and Truth: Paul Auster's Leviathan
Chapter 3 Narcissism and Explanation: Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides
Chapter 4 History, Time and Justice: E. L. Doctorow's The Waterworks