By Pieter Vermeulen
This e-book explores the paradoxical productiveness of the belief of the tip of the unconventional in modern fiction. It indicates how this concept permits a few of our most important twenty-first century writers to re-imagine the ethics and politics of literature and to determine intractable types of lifestyles and have an effect on.
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Extra info for Contemporary Literature and the End of the Novel: Creature, Affect, Form
In a review of the work of the Belgian novelist JeanPhilippe Toussaint, from which this last salvo is taken, the renewed interest in human relationships that characterizes Toussaint’s most recent novels is immediately suspected of being “a crypto-reactionary step backwards towards humanism, sentimentalism, positivism and the whole gamut of bad isms that the vanguard 20th-century novel expended so much effort overcoming” (“Stabbing”). The heightened tenor of these pronouncements is decidedly uncommon in contemporary literary criticism and arguably even more so in a British context.
Only Lewis and Joyce “felt” the insufficiency of the novel form in a formless age, and articulated their intuitions by writing a “more formless” novel—effectively demoting the novel to the status of an anachronism that only survives, in Eliot’s review, between quotation marks. Joyce’s Portrait and Lewis’s Tarr play a curious role in Eliot’s argument. Both are written after the novel is said to have ended “with Flaubert and with James,” yet the fact that they express a feeling of dissatisfaction with it still somehow indicates that their authors are “in advance” of their time.
In a characteristic move, this hunger is generalized into a cultural condition: “Living as we perforce do in a manufactured and artificial world, we yearn for the ‘real,’ semblances of the real” (239). As the quotation marks around the “real” and its apposition to “semblances of the real” make clear, the main conceptual problem Reality Hunger faces is how to Persistent Affect 41 understand this reality that can neither be conflated with the unmediated world out there, nor with the outcome of the novel’s formulaic deformations of that world.