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Contemporary American Literature as World Literature: Cruel Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopoetics, and the Search for a Worldlier American Novel

Schoene, BJ (2017) Contemporary American Literature as World Literature: Cruel Cosmopolitanism, Cosmopoetics, and the Search for a Worldlier American Novel. Anglia: Zeitschrift fuer Englische Philologie, 135 (1). pp. 86-104. ISSN 1865-8938

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Abstract

With reference to Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010), Amy Waldman’s The Submission (2011) and Teju Cole’s Open City (2011), the first two parts of the article attempt a reappraisal of contemporary American literature’s world-literary potential by problematising cosmopolitanism and neoliberal globalization in close relation to 9/11, the ideal of American multiculture and non-American assertions of alterity. Introducing Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism (2011) and Mitchum Huehls’ After Critique (2016), the third part then shifts its focus onto the crisis of the neoliberal condition as lived in America today. Rather than insisting merely on thematic and demographic reprioritization, Berlant and Huehls are shown to strike at the very core of the literary and the human, exposing the ‘cruelty’ of both the novel and cosmopolitanism as residual expressions of a now anachronistic and ultimately harmful optimism regarding national cohesion and global understanding. The article concludes its search for a worldlier, more cosmopoetic American novel with an analysis of George Saunders’ short story collection Tenth of December (2013).

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