Utopia and Terror in Contemporary American Fiction
By Judie Newman
Routledge – 2013 – 182 pages
Routledge – 2013 – 182 pages
This book examines the quest for/failure of Utopia across a range of contemporary American/transnational fictions in relation to terror and globalization through authors such as Susan Choi, André Dubus, Dalia Sofer, and John Updike. While recent critical thinkers have reengaged with Utopia, the possibility of terror — whether state or non-state, external or homegrown — shadows Utopian imaginings. Terror and Utopia are linked in fiction through the exploration of the commodification of affect, a phenomenon of a globalized world in which feelings are managed, homogenized across cultures, exaggerated, or expunged according to a dominant model. Narrative approaches to the terrorist offer a means to investigate the ways in which fiction can resist commodification of affect, and maintain a reasoned but imaginative vision of possibilities for human community. Newman explores topics such as the first American bestseller with a Muslim protagonist, the links between writer and terrorist, the work of Iranian-Jewish Americans, and the relation of race and religion to Utopian thought.
“This is a focused investigation demonstrating a keen analysis of narrative technique… Newman’s effort is both timely and considered.” - Kate North, Times Higher Education
"This up-to-the-minute look at some of the most remarkable examples of a classic genre as it keeps pace with developments in the real world is fascinating and enlightening…Each chapter takes up a significant new work of fiction, placing it within the literary tradition and showing how it builds on that tradition in noteworthy ways…Students of literature will appreciate the author's many references to earlier, important critical perspectives on utopian forms, in addition to her own insightful evaluations of these very recent works. Like the stories themselves, Newman is exploring fresh territory. Readers will enjoy her engaging style and the self-contained chapters and useful bibliography. Summing Up: Highly recommended." -D. C. Greenwood, Albright College, Choice
"A book that provides a thoughtful, erudite and wide-ranging discussion of literary fiction…I will be returning to this book, using it in my own teaching and research, and encouraging others to do so as well." --Aliki Varvogli, University of Dundee, Journal of American Studies
1. Introduction 2. Rotten with perfection: Kim Edwards, The Secrets of a Fire King. 3.Fiction and the Unabomber: Susan Choi, A Person of Interest. 4.Blowback: André Dubus III, House of Sand and Fog. 5. Falling Woman: André Dubus III, The Garden of Last Days 6. Pictures from a Revolution: Dalia Sofer, The Septembers of Shiraz 7.Updike’s Many Worlds: Local and Global in Toward the End of Time. 8.The Black Atlantic as Dystopia: Bernardine Evaristo, Blonde Roots. 9.Disaster Utopias: Chitra Divakaruni, One Amazing Thing.
Judie Newman is Professor of American Studies at The University of Nottingham, UK.