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After the End of History: American Fiction in the 1990s by Samuel Cohen

By Samuel Cohen

During this daring publication, Samuel Cohen asserts the literary and old significance of the interval among the autumn of the Berlin wall and that of the dual Towers in big apple. With fresh readability, he examines six Nineteen Nineties novels and post-9/11 novels that discover the impression of the top of the chilly struggle: Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, Roth's American Pastoral, Morrison's Paradise, O'Brien's within the Lake of the Woods, Didion's the very last thing He sought after, Eugenides's Middlesex, Lethem's citadel of Solitude, and DeLillo's Underworld. Cohen emphasizes how those works reconnect the earlier to a gift that's paradoxically a fan of denying that connection. Exploring the methods rules approximately paradise and pastoral, distinction and exclusion, innocence and righteousness, triumph and trauma deform the tales americans inform themselves approximately their nation’s earlier, After the tip of background demanding situations us to re-evaluate those works in a brand new gentle, delivering clean, insightful readings of what are destined to be vintage works of literature. whilst, Cohen enters into the theoretical dialogue approximately postmodern old realizing. Throwing his hat within the ring with strength and magnificence, he confronts not just Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist reaction to the autumn of the Soviet Union but in addition the opposite literary and political “end of background” claims placed forth by way of such theorists as Fredric Jameson and Walter Benn Michaels. In an easy, affecting kind, After the tip of background bargains us a brand new imaginative and prescient for the functions and confines of latest fiction.

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The upward-tending line of progress, then, depended on the drawing of lines of division. As this kind of “progress” continues to be made, this story of the Enlightenment continues to be told. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer told a different story in the middle of the last century. In their Dialectic of Enlightenment, they argue that what has been called Enlightenment and hailed as progress in fact led to the gas chambers. With roots in Marx and Nietzsche, Adorno and Horkheimer and others in and outside of the Frankfurt School saw the belief in human mastery through reason and attempts to impose it on the universe, or “instrumental reason,” as the root of the miseries of their contemporary world, miseries that they could not cite as evidence of progress.

The impact of these attacks on American consciousness does attest to the power of the image and the terrorist. But there is another way to look at the role of the novel in contemporary American culture, and it is one that recognizes the connection between the power of imagination and the ability to understand the world historically — to tell stories about the things that have happened and that continue to happen. For the historical novel, that means to do so not simply in order to offer a play of irreconcilable competing perspectives, as Hutcheon would have it, or to attest to the desire for the knowledge of the sublimely ungraspable past, as Elias would have it, but rather to explore, through imagination and narrative, the connections between the world that is and the world that was and 26 introduc tion the ways those connections can be missed when the stories know their moral — their ending — before they even begin.

In From the Civil War to the Apocalypse: Postmodern History and American Fiction, Timothy Parrish calls the writers of these contemporary historical novels “novelist-historians” and argues that they “write history as a form of fiction” (2). Parrish separates himself from Hutcheon on this point, arguing that her claim that postmodern fiction “demystifies” history implies an acceptance of the generic line between the two. Parrish, on the other hand, believes the novels that are his subject “aspire .

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