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Generic discontinuities and variations

Generic discontinuities and variations

Weston, Daniel Peter (2015) Generic discontinuities and variations. In: Bentley, Nick, Hubble, Nick and Wilson, Leigh, (eds.) The 2000s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction. Decades of Contemporary British Fiction . Bloomsbury Academic, London, UK, pp. 173-198. ISBN 9781441112156

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Zadie Smith’s 2008 essay ‘Two Paths for the Novel’ identified two divergent directions taken by fiction writing of the 2000s. The contrast is drawn by recourse to two novels: Joseph O’Neil’s Netherland (2008) is a paradigm of the ‘lyrical realism’ that Smith finds to be the dominant form of the novel, whereas Tom McCarthy’s Remainder (2005) is a ‘strong refusal’ of this prevalent mode. Whilst acknowledging that Smith’s essay is an important and helpful evaluation of the poles around which experimentation has been oriented, this chapter argues that even if these two particular novels might be ‘antipodal’, many of the important texts of the noughties have attempted, in various ways, to reconcile experimentation and realism. If the 1980s and the 1990s represented the high-water mark of postmodern hyperconscious metafiction and formal deviation, then the 2000s have been a decade in which writers have sought to digest these trends and, in some instances, move beyond them. In this chapter, I look to other models to establish a vocabulary for thinking through the relations between realism and experimentation. In place of Smith’s divergent paths, I draw on David Lodge’s idea of ‘the novelist at the crossroads’ and Andrzej Gasiorek’s notion of post-war writers attempting to transcend the dichotomy between realism and experimentalism. I assess the ways in which the noughties have witnessed an accommodation of postmodernism. Precisely what it means to be narratologically and formally inventive has shifted for the post-millennial novel. I discuss texts by an established generation of writers who in the 2000s have stepped back from their formerly more explicitly experimental writing, and a younger generation whose innovative writing has come to the fore during this decade.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: novel, the 2000s, realism, experimentalism, narrative, form
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2018 15:12

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