Several of American literature’s most prominent authors, and many of their most perceptive critics and reviewers, argue that fiction of the last quarter century has turned away from the tendencies of postmodernist writing. Yet, the nature of that turn, and the defining qualities of American fiction after postmodernism, remain less than clear.
This volume identifies four prominent trends of the contemporary scene: the recovery of the real, a rethinking of historical engagement, a preoccupation with materiality, and a turn to the planetary. Readings of works by various leading figures, including Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, A.M. Homes, Lance Olsen, Richard Powers, William T. Vollmann, and David Foster Wallace, support a variety of arguments about this recent revitalization of American literature.
The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the journal Textual Practice.
Table of Contents
Introduction: American fiction after postmodernism
Theophilus Savvas and Christopher K. Coffman
1. Vegetarianism in the Anthropocene: Richard Powers and Jonathan Franzen
2. The genrefication of contemporary American fiction
3. Feverish fictions: William T. Vollmann and American literary history after postmodernism
Christopher K. Coffman
4. Metaffective fiction: structuring feeling in post-postmodern American literature
5. Entropology and the end of nature in Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting
6. Typical Eggers: transnationalism and America in Dave Eggers’s ‘globally-minded’ fiction
7. Making it long: men, women, and the great American novel now
Christopher K. Coffman is Senior Lecturer in Humanities at Boston University, MA, USA. He is the author of Rewriting Early America: The Prenational Past in Postmodern Literature (2019) and co-editor of William T. Vollmann: A Critical Companion (2015).
Theophilus Savvas is Lecturer in English at the University of Bristol, UK. He is the author of American Postmodernist Fiction and the Past (2011).
‘While some work on contemporary American fiction has been shaped by the crosswinds of transitory trends and superficial labels, American Fiction After Postmodernism is a major and substantial volume that anchors its readings in a much deeper understanding of how the contemporary novel has changed over time. Alert to the influence of DeLillo and Nabokov, attuned to mainstream voices (Eggers, Franzen), whilst also bringing welcome readings of often overlooked writers (Homes, Olsen), Savvas and Coffman’s collection offers fine-grained analyses of what has happened to postmodernism’s key concerns—from the Jamesonian shadow cast over history and affect to its ambitions to historical greatness—alongside pioneering readings of new areas, such as genrefication and vegetarianism.’
Stephen Burn, Reader in Post-1945 American Literature at the University of Glasgow, UK.
‘Post-postmodern’ has long been a broad and unwieldy designation for what’s going on in U.S. literature now, and this rich collection not only evokes the stakes of naming the contemporary but shows just how many branches of the network will lie hidden beneath any chosen term, unearthing affect, ecology, textual materialism, and much else in important recent fiction.’
Jeffrey Severs, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, and author of David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books: Fictions of Value (2017).