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American Fiction in Transition


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Table of Contents

1. The 1990s, the Postmodern Subject, and the Problem of Agency / 2. Observer-Hero Narrative and American Literary History / 3. Tragedy, Secrecy, Narration: Philip Roth's The Human Stain / 4. Action and Testimony: Paul Auster's Leviathan / 5. Narcissism and Explanation: Jeffrey Eugenides's The Virgin Suicides / 6. Ethics and Justification: E. L. Doctorow's The Waterworks / 7. Conclusion: Agency, the Reader, and the Post-Postmodern / Bibliography / Index

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American Fiction in Transition offers a case study for defining the 1990s as a transitional decade for US literature and postmodern culture.

About the Author

Adam Kelly is Lecturer in American Literature at the University of York, UK. He previously taught at Harvard University, where he was a postdoctoral fellow, and at University College Dublin. He is the author of American Fiction in Transition: Observer-Hero Narrative, the 1990s, and Postmodernism (Bloomsbury 2013), as well as numerous articles in edited collections and in journals including Twentieth-Century Literature, Studies in the Novel, Critique, and Philip Roth Studies.


The book evinces Kelly's expertise at tracing the genealogy of a literary or theoretical field. His handling of Derrida is particularly impressive, aligning analysis of each novel with a relevant Derridean concept - secrecy, testimony, narcissism, and justice - whilst displaying a flair for synthesizing complex ideas without being reductive. Moreover, his close readings are assured, marrying extensive critical knowledge with original insights, and sophisticated yet lucid syntax. ... In simultaneously attempting to define a literary genre, characterize a historical era, and posit theoretical developments 'after' postmodernism, Kelly is attempting to do a great deal in such a slender volume, and yet he handles his tripartite project with aplomb, abetted by his clear writing style and convincing methodology. On the whole, this ambitious book is an enlightening and challenging contribution to nascent studies of the 1990s, and of 'post-' postmodernism. -- Iain Williams (University of Edinburgh, UK) * U.S. Studies Online *
American Fiction in Transition is a major contribution to the understanding of a recent period in American literature. Lucid and engaging, Kelly combines close reading with a deep attention to questions of historical, cultural, and political context. Refuting the opposition between formalism and historicism, Kelly breaks new ground in literary studies, and shows how detailed attention to texts can illuminate seminal philosophical and political questions. This debut by a compelling new voice is an event not to be missed. -- Martin Hagglund, Yale University, USA
Characterised by an assured internalisation of theoretical frameworks, Adam Kelly has produced innovative, agenda-setting arguments about the conception of the 1990s as a transitional era within American fiction, based on the genre of the 'observer-hero narrative'. Supported by substantial scholarship, the analytical work that goes into identifying the paradigmatic nature of this narrative at periods of literary transition, results in a compelling account of literary history and the literary forms that emerge at particular junctures in that history. Seeking to renew the critical lexicon for understanding what 'comes after postmodernism', Kelly's investigations into questions about agency and ethics offers a literary historicism that is usefully conjoined with relevant contemporary philosophical concerns. -- Tim Woods, Dean, Faculty of Arts, and Professor of English and American Studies, Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK

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