Penetrating the “Pink Wasteland”: Gender and Environmentalism in Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975)

More than forty years after its first publication, Edward Abbey’s 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang (MWG) remains a major environmentalist text. The story, in which four ecoterrorist activists use sabotage techniques to protect their beloved Western landscape from industrial and commercial interference, has inspired real life movements such as Earth First! and the Earth Liberation Front. However, the environmentalist project the novel describes is not as radical as it may appear at first sight. This article argues that MWG’s message of ecoterrorism depends on the (re)construction of a rigid gender boundary which turns the American West into a feminine entity that can only be saved through masculine interference. Continue reading

Overcoming Postmodernism

David Foster Wallace and a new Writing of Honesty

The end of postmodernism? Jesús Bolaño Quintero explores David Foster Wallace’s writing, searching for a new form of honesty in American literature after the age of irony. Continue reading

A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance

100 Years of Writing against Complicity

How can writing escape complicity? As the 21st century version of nationalist authoritarian politics has internalised the postmodern recognition that language constructs reality, and warped it for its own purposes in Donald Trump’s ‘tweet-politics,’ a literature-focused backlash is developing. Katharina Donn discusses modernist and contemporary practices of hybrid women’s writing, and explores their politics of form. Continue reading

Emily Dickinson and the Nineteenth-Century Women Poets: The Poetics and Politics of Reticence

When discussing nineteenth-century American women poets, the term ‘reticence’ has been used, almost exclusively, by critics since the 1980s, to refer to poetic strategies that resulted from ‘psychic conflict and anxiety’[1]: women’s literary articulation was suppressed by the patriarchal system, and society demanded reticence in writing by women (e.g. elimination of anger, sexual feelings, and ambition in their work). Continue reading

The Last Time I Saw Richard: Post-Postmodernism and the Contemporary Case for Richard Yates

Ninety years since his birth, a familiar argument recurs in discussions of Richard Yates’s critical underappreciation. It holds that a dedication to a stylistically and formally conventional form of fiction, one preoccupied with the mimetically realist representation of a particular set of social mores and their psychological impacts, placed him out-of-step with the experimental currents of the postmodern period. Continue reading

Booker Prize Americanism

Three years ago, our friends chez Booker changed house rules so that novels by North Americans became eligible for the prize. This provoked a backlash from certain contemporary observers, who augured Americans predominating Booker long- and shortlists going forward. Essentially, this hasn’t happened: two Americans making the six-strong shortlists of 2014 and ’15 is vanishing cause for concern. What this article explores is a corollary issue: whether an influx of American authors necessarily means an influx of an ineffable “American-ness”. Continue reading

Storify of our #bookhour on HYSTOPIA by David Means

On Tuesday 2nd August 2016, Dr Dorothy Butchard, Dr Ciarán Dowd, Dr Deirdre Flynn, and Dr Dan King joined #bookhour organiser Dr Diletta De Cristofaro to chat about David Means’ Hystopia, in the longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2016. The discussion focused on the form of the novel, both in its postmodern nested narratives and framing devices, and in its various story arcs; on the relationship between alternate history and trauma, as well as on that between individual agency and state intervention; and, finally, on the text’s use of Baudrillardian tropes and its problematic depiction of women. Continue reading

When a novel changes a social system: Mary Jane Ward’s The Snake Pit (1946) and the US state psychiatric hospital

It is rare for a novel to radically affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, yet Mary Jane Ward’s novel, The Snake Pit (1946), drew widespread critical attention to the plight of the mentally ill in American state asylums. It is not claiming too much to say that treatment of the insane began its long, unsteady road to improvement after Ward’s fiction had reached out to a huge, popular audience, tackling a subject that had previously been taboo. Continue reading