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 ancient value of the interval among the autumn of the Berlin wall and that of the dual Towers in big apple. With clean readability, he examines six 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 prior to a gift that's sarcastically a fan of denying that connection. Exploring the methods principles approximately paradise and pastoral, distinction and exclusion, innocence and righteousness, triumph and trauma deform the tales americans inform themselves approximately their nation’s prior, After the tip of heritage demanding situations us to think again those works in a brand new mild, delivering clean, insightful readings of what are destined to be vintage works of literature. whilst, Cohen enters into the theoretical dialogue approximately postmodern historic 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 historical past” claims placed forth by way of such theorists as Fredric Jameson and Walter Benn Michaels. In a simple, affecting sort, After the tip of historical past bargains us a brand new imaginative and prescient for the functions and confines of latest fiction.

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To address this question, we need to go beyond a reading of Mason & Dixon solely as a novel of lines, as a reckoning of the costs of America’s addiction to binarism. To get at other ways of 46 af ter enlightenment thinking and being that Mason & Dixon might entertain, we have to focus on the other figure that dominates the novel. The ampersand is an ancient Roman symbol derived from the ligature or combination into one character of the e and t in the Latin et, meaning and. In modern English usage, it continues to serve as shorthand for and.

Antirealism becomes the defining feature of twentieth-century fiction: modernism supersedes realistic representations with streamof-consciousness and formalistic rigor, and then postmodernism fractures or deconstructs representation, consciousness, and form. Accordingly, innovation removes the novel even farther from realism. (“Innovation” 810) The understanding of realism assumed in the narrative Brenkman recounts here is bound to a period- and technique-restricted definition, one that leaves out the role imagination can play in literary explorations of reality.

These novels are neither straight histories nor ultimatums issued to readers; to try to be either would be to pretend to an ability to fully understand human experience that is impossible to claim at this late date. Neither, however, do they offer new stories of the past that are as good as any others or stories that express how unknowable the past is. I see them instead as implicitly arguing, through their own performance of it, a return to the familiar stories, a resistance to their conclusions, an insistence on recognizing the deforming shape of certain narratives and on using imagination to redraw the connections those narratives wish to cut.

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