It's All in the Family: Metamodernism and the Contemporary (Anglo-) "American" Novel.
Abstract: This dissertation examines the function of family as a thematic in
the contemporary Anglo-American novel. It argues that contemporary aesthetics increasingly
presents the family as an enabling platform for conciliation with the social totality: as a
space of personal development, readying one for life in the wider social field. This
analyses hinges on readings of Jonathan Franzen's ... read moreFreedom (2010), Zadie Smith's NW (2012),
A. M. Homes' May We Be Forgiven (2012) and Caryl Phillips' In the Falling Snow. In
approaching these novels, this project addresses the theoretical lacuna left open by the
much-touted retreat of postmodernism as a general cultural-aesthetic strategy. This project
identifies these novels as examples of a new and competing ideological constellation:
metamodernism. Metamodernism encompasses the widely cited return of sincerity to
contemporary aesthetics, though this project explains this development in a novel way: as a
cultural expression from within the wider arc of postmodernism itself. One recurrent
supposition within this project is that postmodernism, in its seeming nihilism, betrays a
thwarted political commitment; on the other hand contemporary metamodern attitudes display
the seriousness and earnestness of political causes carried out to an ironic disregard of
the political. Metamodernism, in other words, is not a wholesale disavowal of postmodern
irony, but a re-arrangement of its function: a move from sincere irony to an ironic
sincerity. The central inquiry of this dissertation is into this re-arranged role of family
and familial participation amidst this new cultural landscape. My argument is that family
and the political have maintained a tense relationship through the twentieth century in the
American consciousness. They represent competing models of futurity in a zero-sum game for
an individual's life-energy. What metamodernism represents, so this dissertation will
articulate, is a new form of anti-politics: a fully gratified impulse to depoliticize.
Analyzing what this project terms the "politics of the local," this dissertation will argue
that the highly popular and successful models of conscientious capitalism have been
superseded. Today, increasingly, redemption from consumerism guilt is itself wrapped up in
commodities: the utopian impulse celebrated by Fredric Jameson has itself obtained a price
tag. The contemporary novel thus reflects new social functions for that which has trumped
the political: the family.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2015.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Ichiro Takayoshi.
Committee: Kathy Knapp, Nathan Wolff, and John Lurz.
Keywords: Literature, and History.read less
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