1st Edition

The Poetics of Empowerment in David Mitchell’s Novels

By Eva-Maria Windberger Copyright 2023
    280 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Poetics of Empowerment in David Mitchell’s Novels combines the investigation of David Mitchell’s novels with the introduction of a new critical concept to literary studies: empowerment. Aiming to situate and establish empowerment firmly within the context of literary studies, it offers the first framework and definition for reading fictional texts with the lens of empowerment and applies it in the analysis of discourse, the fictional characters, and the role of the reader in Mitchell’s novels. Drawing on narratological analysis, cognitive approaches to literature, and reader-response theory, it features close readings of Cloud Atlas (2004), Black Swan Green (2006), and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010) and dissects the author’s strategies, poetics, and agenda of empowering fiction. This book argues for an inherent, indissoluble connection between empowerment and the telling of stories and demonstrates how literary studies can benefit from a serious engagement with empowerment—and how such an engagement can stimulate new responses to fiction and put literary studies in conversation with other disciplines.


    1 Introduction

    2 A Poetics of Empowerment?

    Zooming in on Empowerment: Concepts and Contexts

    Empowerment and Literature

    3 Empowering Discourse

    "All Boundaries Are Conventions": David Mitchell’s Literary Playground

    Chapters in an Über-book: Understanding Mitchell’s Fictional Universe

    4 Empowering Characters

    From Subjugation to Emancipation: Journeys of Empowerment in Cloud Atlas

    Politics, Playground Bullies, Poetry: Empowerment in Black Swan Green

    Culture and Genre Clashes: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

    5 Empowering Readers

    Reader-Response Theory, Empathy, Cognition, and Agency

    David Mitchell’s Novels and the Role of the Reader

    6 Conclusion: Towards a Poetics of Empowerment



    Eva-Maria Windberger is a postdoctoral researcher in the field of British literature and culture at the University of Trier. In 2020, she completed a Ph.D. thesis exploring strategies and functions of empowerment in the novels of David Mitchell. She is co-editor (with Ralf Hertel) of the volume Empowering Contemporary Fiction: The Impact of Empowerment in Literary Studies (2021). Her current research project focuses on the performativity of East Asian identities on the British stage.