Spectacular Allegories: Postmodern American Writing and the Politics of Seeing by Josh Cohen
Major modern American authors such as Norman Mailer, Joan Didion and James Ellroy are all haunted by "crises of visual experience," according to this major new study of contemporary fiction. The author examines American writing and its "politics of seeing": the ways in which mass spectacle has transformed postmodern culture and its literary figures. Cohen argues that the current trends in fiction have been created by the pervasive force of spectacle in American culture, a crisis that leads authors to invent new and diverse ways of visualizing and narrating the world. Embedded in these constructed world views are very different and conflicting politics of gender, mass culture and postmodern society. Drawing on the work of Walter Benjamin, Cohen terms this kind of writing "allegorical" -- characterized by perpetual interpretation rather than transparent communication. According to Cohen, a shifting and disruptive visual culture repeatedly frustrates the desire for a secure and universal form of narration in the texts dissected here.