Extreme States : The Evolution of American Transgressive Fiction 1960-2000 book cover
1st Edition

Extreme States
The Evolution of American Transgressive Fiction 1960-2000

ISBN 9780367664534
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
196 Pages

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Book Description

Transgressive fiction explores the crossing of boundaries. Because of its extreme content and style, it is often considered controversial. However, transgressive fiction is not just shocking or disruptive. It is a continuation of an American tradition of creating culture through the crossing of moral, geographical and social boundaries. Extreme States traces the evolution of American transgressive fiction from the 1960s to 2000, exploring how transgressive fiction reflects, exaggerates and critically interrogates how central American ideologies are perpetually (re)constructed in its extra-textual context.

Table of Contents


1 Dead in the Water? Reading Transgression as a Central Social Mechanism

Moving Beyond Marginality: (Re)defining Transgression

A Perverse Society? Transgression and American Culture

The Body of Work: What Is Transgressive Fiction?

A History of Transgression: Case Studies

2 Too Much Filth to Handle: Pornography and Capitalism in Hogg

Dirt, Sex and Violence: Breaking Through the Surface

Wandering Around the Wasteland: An Alternative America

Constructing Mainstream Marginality: Racism, Homophobia and Misogyny

The (S)innocent Child: The Nuclear Family and Morality

3 Saving the West: Environmentalism and Conservatism in The Monkey Wrench Gang

A Modern-Day Thoreau: An Environmentalist History

Maintenance through Destruction: Saving the American West

Reinventing the Vigilante: Masculinity as Activist Vehicle

The West as a Playing Field: Narrative Distortion and Critical Exploration

4 A Painful Past: Rememory, Monstrosity and Intersectionality in Beloved

A Ghost From the Past: Uncomfortable Histories

Monsters and Reconstruction: Learning from the Past

Half-formed Things: Building Gendered and Ethnic Identities

Under Construction: Fluid Freedoms

5 The Perfect Neoliberal: The Corporate and the Corporeal in American Psycho

Consuming Objects: Commodity Fetishism and the Corporeal

The Power of the Corporeal: Corporate Instability

Chasing the Cipher: Bodily Violation as Critical Interrogation

Reinventing Neoliberalism: Crisis and Regeneration

6 Wild Men: Freedom and Masculinity in Fight Club

Infected Masculinity: Reforming Capitalism through the Male Body

Infecting Society: Project Mayhem as Social Disease

Rethinking the Ethics of Physicality: Gender and the Politics of Illness

The End of Freedom? The Return of the Limit

7 "This Is Not an Exit": The (Non) Death of Transgression

From Safety Valve to Critical Exploration: Transgressive Fiction as a Fictional Lab

The Mind-Body Problem: Connecting Ideology and Physicality

Moving beyond Boundaries: Transgressive Fiction After the Turn of the Century

No Future? The Continued Importance of Transgressive Fiction


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Coco d’Hont is an independent scholar who researches contemporary American fiction and popular culture. She holds a PhD from the University of East Anglia (UK). Recent projects include explorations of Marilyn Manson, published in the European Journal of American Studies, Mary Harron’s American Psycho, and Chuck Palahniuk’s post-9/11 fiction.


Is transgression only about breaking the rules, or is it also creative and reconstitutive, part of a perpetual reconfiguration of American culture? Is it about style, or is it about ideas? Coco d’Hont, in her study of American fiction since the 1960s, helps us see transgression as violation, creation, and ideology.

—Christopher Phelps, University of Nottingham

"Transgression as a concept involves so much more than the cliché of that which is outré or titillating, usually understood in sexual or aesthetic terms. At last, with Extreme States, we have a monograph that explores the ways in which the crossing of borders, boundaries, and categories is both central to much recent American fiction, and key to understanding the contemporary American ideological imaginary."

—Lisa Downing, University of Birmingham