California and the Melancholic American Identity in Joan Didion’s Novels: Exiled from Eden focuses on the concept of Californian identity in the fiction of Joan Didion. This identity is understood as melancholic, in the sense that the critics following the tradition of both Sigmund Freud and Walter Benjamin use the word. The book traces the progress of the way Californian identity is portrayed in Joan Didion’s novels, starting with the first two in which California plays the central role, Run River and Play It As It Lays, through A Book of Common Prayer to Democracy and The Last Thing He Wanted, where California functions only as a distant point of reference, receding to the background of Didion’s interests. Curiously enough, Didion presents Californian history as a history of white settlement, disregarding whole chapters of the history of the region in which the Californios and Native Americans, among other groups, played a crucial role: it is this reticence that the monograph sees as the main problem of Didion’s fiction and presents it as the silent center of gravity in Didion’s oeuvre. The monograph proposes to see the melancholy expressed by Didion’s fiction organized into four losses: of Nature, History, Ethics, and Language; around which the main analytical chapters are constructed. What remains unrepresented and silenced comes back to haunt Didion’s fiction, and it results in a melancholic portrayal of California and its identity – which is the central theme this monograph addresses.
Katarzyna Nowak-McNeice is a Conex-Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain. She obtained her doctoral degree from the University of Wroclaw, Poland, in 2005. She is the author of Melancholic Travelers: Autonomy, Hybridity and the Maternal (Peter Lang, 2007) and co-editor of Interiors: Interiority/ Exteriority in Literary and Cultural Discourse (Cambridge Scholars, 2010) and A Dark California: Essays on Dystopian Depictions in Popular Culture (McFarland, 2017), as well as essays, reviews and translations.