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Mojca Krevel (ed.) ISBN 978-961-237-916-2

ISBN 978-961-237-916-2

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Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction

Mojca Krevel (ed.)

Mojca Krevel is an associate professor at the English Department of the University of Ljubljana, where she teaches various courses on English and American fiction. Her research focuses on those phenomena in contemporary American prose that correspond to social, economic and historical circumstances intrinsic to the postmodern paradigm. Her areas of interest include contemporary prose, critical theory, new media, posthumanism and cybercultures. She is the author of monographs on literary cyberpunk (Kiberpank v literaturi, 2001) and on the Avant-Pop movement (Izvidniki v puščavi resničnosti, 2010), a number of articles and book chapters on contemporary American fiction, and she is the co-author (with Uroš Mozetič) of Miracles of Rare Device: English Verse from the Elizabethans to the Moderns (2012). Since 2016 she has been the co-editor of the academic journal ELOPE: English Language Perspectives and Enquiries.

Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction

Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction provides a particularly creative and wide-ranging set of lenses on contemporary U.S. fiction, which in turn should inspire more critical inquiries on the subject. The book convincingly demonstrates that our own era is marked by literary eclecticism; hybrid fictions employ a wide variety of approaches, present conflicting viewpoints, and blend media and technological forms. While many studies on postmodern American fiction offer a narrow focus, this volume takes a more expansive approach, providing ample opportunities for the reader to delve into multiple forms of hybridity. Additionally, the volume seeks to broaden our engagement with postmodern American novels, creating space for works that might get pigeonholed into more generically based categories, such as LGBT fiction, autobiographies, science fiction, or young adult fiction. Moreover, the authorship of this collection is itself a hybridized rhizomatic project, interconnecting and deterritorializing scholars from an array of nationalities, universities, departments, perspectives, and disciplines. Lisa Botshon

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Mojca Krevel (ed.)

Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction

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Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction Book series: Razprave FF (ISSN 2335-3333) Edited by: Mojca Krevel Reviewers: Igor Maver, Lisa Botshon, Victor Kennedy Proofreading: Jason Blake Layout: Jure Preglau Cover photo: Stock photo © GeorgePeters © University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, 2017. All rights reserved. Published by: Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (Ljubljana University Press, Faculty of Arts) Issued by: The Scientific Research Institute of the Faculty of Arts For the publisher: Branka Kalenić Ramšak, the dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana Design: Lavoslava Benčić Printed by: Birografika Bori d. o. o. Ljubljana, 2017 First edition Number of copies printed: 300 Price: 19.90 EUR

The book was published with support from the Slovenian Research Agency. The authors acknowledge the financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency (research core funding No. P6-0265).

CIP - Kataložni zapis o publikaciji Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica, Ljubljana 821.111(73).09(082) BECOMING world : probing hybridity in postmodern American fiction / Mojca Krevel (ed.). - 1st ed. - Ljubljana : Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete, 2017. (Book series Razprave FF, ISSN 2335-3333) ISBN 978-961-237-916-2 289867008

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Table of Contents 1 Mapping the Territory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Mojca Krevel 2 Being a Time Being: Who Is Who in Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being . 19 Mojca Krevel 3 Hybridity of Space as Force of Control in Paul Auster’s Travels in the Scriptorium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Urša Vogrinc Javoršek 4 Metrixing the Matrix: A Linguistic Analysis of Intertextuality on the Basis of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Gašper Ilc 5 Batting the “fluidities of my new country” – Cricket and Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 Jason Blake 6 Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City Novels and the Mainstreaming of Queer Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 Robert Kellerman 7 The Hybrid Nature of Autobiography: James Ellroy’s The Hilliker Curse Rethought as a Deleuzian Rhizome . . . . . . . . . 129 Melanija Larisa Fabčič 8 Slipstream and Genre Hybridity in Contemporary American Fiction . 155 Janez Steble 9 Writing the Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 Mojca Krevel 10 The Future of Gender in Transhumanist Science Fiction . . . . . . . . 193 Anamarija Šporčič 11 The “Self” That Feminists Must Code in Literature and Pop Culture: A Postmodern Critique of Transmedial Storytelling and the Necessary Recoding of Cyborg “Texts” . . . . . 221 Jess Edney Notes on Contributors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 Name Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245

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1

Mapping the Territory Mojca Krevel

1.1

Notes on the Purpose

In A Thousand Plateaus, their seminal collection of observations and ruminations on the postmodern condition, Deleuze and Guattari unequivocally declare American literature to be a manifestation of the rhizomatic historical model of reality that is typical of present social, economic and political circumstances. Their assertion that American literature knows how “to establish a logic of the AND” and “to move between things, […] [which] does not designate a localizable relation going from one thing to the other and back again, but a perpendicular direction, a transversal movement that sweeps one and the other away” (Deleuze and Guattari, 2005, 25) is an ideal scholarly starting point for this book that was initially conceived as a sort of experiment. Given the overwhelming and often intimidating body of theories and approaches governing contemporary studies of literature which, despite the seeming all-inclusiveness and openness, still largely serve to preserve (and ensure survival in) the rigid hierarchies and exclusivity of the global corporation of contemporary academia, the initial idea behind this collection of essays – namely, to approach contemporary American fiction and its alleged hybridity from domains not necessarily associated with literary scholarship – might be considered somewhat naïve. Having been an avid reader all my life, I realized at some point that my selection of reading materials increasingly favoured the works of contemporary, generally post-1980s American fiction. One might ascribe this fact to the ongoing American cultural and economic imperialism tsunami-ing away local colour and variety. My reasons, however, were far more prosaic – I simply got tired of and bored with the never-ending loops of self-referentiality and more or less explicit lamentations over loss of meaning and self which I kept encountering in the late-twentieth-century European production. The American literary counterpart was exciting because it was as familiar as it was strange in its frivolous merging of what I had been taught was incompatible. As such, it offered an excuse and a justification for my enthusiastic revelling in all those things that were crushing the world as we knew it to pieces – MTV, Twin Peaks, NME, Sony Walkmans, video recorders, Beavis and Butthead, computers, the internet, IRC, The Matrix, mobile phones. It was this familiar strangeness I set out to explore in my

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professional life, namely, how to account for the fact that the obvious paradoxes I kept encountering in the books I liked did not feel paradoxical at all; on the contrary, they made perfect sense. Two decades later, armed with the knowledge of pertinent critical theory and having witnessed its practical incarnations in contemporary reality – be it in what is and what is not labelled fiction – I can only concur with Deleuze and Guattari’s above statement. The familiar strangeness of contemporary American fiction reflects and contributes to the familiar strangeness of our everyday existence in the opening decades of the epoch that is supplanting the Modern Age and of which, according to Jean Baudrillard, America is the original place (cf. Baudrillard, 1999; Lane, 2009, 121). However, given that contemporary critical theory and its various offshoots are largely founded on conceptual frameworks provided by Deleuze and Guattari, Baudrillard, Derrida, Barthes, Lyotard, Foucault, and other predominantly poststructuralist philosophers, applying established contemporary approaches to what these thinkers already identified as the embodiments of their concepts is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But since the key principles that these theoreticians infer from the mechanisms governing postmodern historical processes are those implying fluidity, networking, decentralisation, multivocality, interconnectedness, etc. – resulting in an all-embracing hybridity of the endless “and ... and ... and” (Deleuze and Guattari, 2005, 242) – any discourse on any aspect of the postmodern condition a priori fulfils its prophesy, which brings us back to the initial idea for this book. Why not shake off the prescribed prerequisites for putting together a book on contemporary American fiction, and play a bit with what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as nomad science (cf. 2005, 362)? Why not approach the subject from different angles, and see what kind of a rhizome the lines of flight create?1 Why not gather academics from different fields and with different areas of specialisations – but all avid readers of contemporary literature – to pick a work or works from contemporary, post-1980s American production which, for whatever reason, stirred their attention and/or appreciation? Why not ask them to write about any aspect of hybridity that they might observe from their respective viewpoints, in their respective works, and to put the hybridity of this production to the test? Examine in what way(s) whatever they chose was hybrid (if at all); delineate the potential limits of hybridity; establish how – if at all – concepts of hybridity reflect the current state of affairs, be it from the perspective of their 1

Deleuze and Guattari define a line of flight as “the maximum dimension after which the multiplicity undergoes metamorphosis, changes in nature” (2005, 21).

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specific fields of research, their respective readings of pertinent (postmodern) theories, or – why not? – their lives in general. Progressing from Why not? to Let’s do it! was encouraged by the unexpected enthusiasm of the people I asked to collaborate on this project (unexpected because they are all in the business of publishing not to perish in their respective fields, which leaves little time for venturing outside their immediate academic domains). These fields comprise contemporary fiction and critical theory, translation studies, medieval studies, gender and feminist studies, sports fiction, science fiction and media studies, corpus linguistics, phraseology and stylistics. But, apparently, hybridity of various sorts was something they frequently encountered – or even worked with – in their lines of work within the contemporary academic landscape – not surprisingly, one might add, considering the hitherto established (and verified) modi operandi of the mechanisms governing the postmodern epoch, which are slowly but persistently modifying all the areas of social life. The nature of these modifications was the other reason the seemingly naïve initial idea of employing a relatively laissez-faire approach to contemporary American fiction in order to examine the extent and the nature of its hybridism, as well as its impact on and its role in contemporary postmodern reality, proved legitimate enough to turn the idea into an actual project.

1.2

“(Turn and Face the Strange) Ch-ch-changes”2

After World War II, the old world lay in ruins. The traditional strongholds of economy and culture were burnt to the ground, as were the very foundations of the Enlightenment humanism. The old Europe was a literal and metaphorical wasteland, and the United States, left relatively unscathed at least in the material sense, was there to culturalise yet another desert.3 Economic and political systems coming into effect after World War II were, predictably, oriented into globalisation and marginalisation of the local, which turned out to be the defining feature of the postindustrial phase of capitalism. Increased competitiveness on the global markets increased the value of information, which resulted in the rapid development of technology and other means for information retrieval, storage, manipulation, and dissemination, evident in the fast and extensive rise of advertising, media and computer industries. Their development has been simultaneous with the alterations of the value system of the masses (that, after all, was their primary function), and the advent of mass culture, 2 3

Bowie, 1971, “Changes”. Cf. Baudrillard, 1999, 123.

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which gradually no longer relied on lived experience but was thoroughly governed by representations. Reality effectively became the sum total of media-transferred information, Baudrillard’s simulacrum of the third order, the paradigm in which the copy produces the original, rendering the Cartesian metaphysical notion of the objective real obsolete. The process of technologisation and development of ever more sophisticated media machinery to accommodate and accelerate the functioning of corporate capitalism resulted in the shift of production relations and the meaning of products, the functional and exchange values of which dissolved in the representational one. With that, in the closing decades of the 20th century, consumption becomes the dominant mode of identity creation, while the objects of consumption – from the actual products to advertised religious and political beliefs, lifestyles, and cultural phenomena in general – acquire the status of personal characteristics which the consumers incorporate (or not) into the identity they consider their own. Subjectivity becomes a playground of various options, as does the body, which is no longer perceived as a Cartesian vehicle of subjective identity but a poststructuralist sign that is ready to incorporate itself into various systems of signification, each open to alterations and manipulations. Within the technological paradigm of postmodernity, bodies are not born, they are made. Bodies have been as thoroughly denaturalized as sign, context, and time. Late twentieth-century bodies do not grow from internal harmonic principles theorized within Romanticism. Neither are they discovered in the domains of realism and modernism. It took the political-epistemological terrain of postmodernism to be able to insist […]: one is not born an organism. Organisms are made; they are constructs of the world-changing kind. (Haraway, 1991, 208) Major alterations of the concepts of reality and self, prompting emergence of new historical epochs, have always been accompanied by the changing of the dominant medium, the functioning of which corresponded to their respective social, economic and historical frameworks (cf. Bolter, 2001, 22). The radical alterations of the concepts of reality and self taking place in the second half of the 20th century were indeed accompanied – and conditioned – by the rapid development and viral spreading of electronic media which in the 1980s culminated in the emergence of the personal computer. The popular electronic technology which preceded the domestication of the computer – despite constantly increasing the number of options to adjust reality to one’s preferences – still anticipated one-way communication with a largely passive receiver of media contents. The structural logic of computer

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hypertext,4 “a dynamic interconnection of a set of symbolic elements” (Bolter, 2001, 38), on the other hand, is defined by the principles of flexibility, interactivity (ibid.) and networking (Landow, 1997, 41). Hypertext has also been at the very core of the World Wide Web (which Bolter describes as the embodiment of hypertext (2001, 38)) from the very beginning. With the development of protocols that not only enabled linking of individual units within standalone systems, but facilitated access to any server on the internet, web hypertexts were no longer limited in size or location (Bolter, 2001, 40), and became global. At the beginning of the 1990s, the internet became the sine qua non ingredient of the postmodern paradigm, and hypertext the dominant medium that has been actualising its governing principles on the level of communication between and among individuals and social groups ever since. Its impact is perhaps best illustrated by the emergence of electronic sociality, dissolving the boundaries between the “virtual” and the “real” to the point where we may never have actually met dozens of people that we label “friends,” and with whom we enthusiastically converse and share our lives.

1.3

Postmodernisation in/of Fiction

It is not surprising that in comparison to other arts literature was slow in responding to the Zeitgeist.5 The main reason for its delay in abandoning the metaphysical order of the Cartesian universe is most certainly connected to its medium, the rise of which coincided with and greatly contributed to the development of the defining categories of Modernity. As Bolter observes, “[w]hen the printed word supplanted and marginalised the codex, the writing space took on the qualities of linearity, replicability and fixity” (2001, 22). These qualities, on the one hand, lie at the very core of the Modern Age structuring of the world; on the other hand, they establish the notion of the author as a God-like creator of finite and unchangeable (fictive) worlds, and the ultimate metaphor of the Cartesian subject. If we think back to Marshall McLuhan’s claim that the nature of the media used for communication shapes societies more than the content of communication does (2001, 8), it appears that the only solution for literature to 4

5

My usage of the term corresponds to Jay David Bolter’s definition of the hypertext as a model for any kind of electronic writing: At present, electronic (or digital) writing describes a larger category than hypertext or hypermedia. Electronic writing includes word processing, e-mail, listserves, chat rooms, and MUDs and MOOs, none of which have the node and link structure of classic hypertext […]. [A]ll electronic writing shares important qualities with hypertext (flexibility, instability, interactivity), so that hypertext, once again in the form of the World Wide Web, serves a paradigm for our cultural experience with electronic writing. (Bolter, 2001, xiii, xiv) One of the first artistic reactions to the epochal changes in society, triggered by the change in production relations defining the postindustrial stage of capitalism, emerged as early as the 1960s with Pop Art, for example (cf. Baudrillard, 1998, 114–121).

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productively transcend endless lamentations over the loss of stability of reality and the self, and postmodernism (and Modern Age metaphysics) with it should involve a drastic modification of its medium. The first literary embodiments of the principles governing the processes intrinsic to the new epoch occurred in the realm of science fiction, namely, in the cyberpunk Movement in the first half of the 1980s. Needless to say, at that time computers were still more than a decade away from becoming household appliances; William Gibson, for example, wrote his cyberpunk classic Neuromancer on a typewriter. But the Movement’s program to abandon both the psychologising of the New Wave soft sci-fi as well as traditional hard sci-fi’s galaxies far, far away, and focus on the “overlapping of worlds that were formerly separate: the realm of high tech, and the modern pop underground” (Sterling 1985: iv), coincided with the actual social, cultural and economic processes shaping the early 1980s experiential reality. As the ultimate high tech of the time was computer technology, extrapolation of its basic tenets – interactivity, flexibility, and connectivity – resulted in creation of worlds and protagonists that were strangely familiar, and irresistibly attractive. Speculating on the possibilities of the new technology, cyberpunk authors created worlds and protagonists that were conglomerates of seamlessly intertwined physical and electronic environments and identities, which – at the time of the Sony Walkman, epidemic growth of specialized TV and radio channels, and increasingly elaborate videogames – already felt familiar. With cyberpunk, the wall of China traditionally dividing science fiction from the mainstream experiential-reality oriented writing was reduced to a decorative hedge fence, which in the subsequent years withered away altogether. With domestication of computers and the rise of the global internet in the first half of the 1990s, hypertext was rapidly gaining ground, soon becoming the dominant medium over which most global communication was performed. Literature was finally equipped with a medium that was not only (conveniently) text-based, but also in synch with the processes governing that which literature had to become a constituent part of, if it were to exist at all. Within the hypertext paradigm, the legacy of cyberpunk was first enthusiastically embraced and upgraded by its direct progeny, cf. postcyberpunk, steampunk, biopunk, nanopunk, etc., as well as by the experimental and/or electronic fiction of the Avant-Pop and transrealism. The mainstream followed rather timidly, or so it seems. When considered outside the institution of postmodernist critique, some of the most canonical contemporary American authors that are conventionally praised for brilliantly entertaining the dogmas of postmodernism in fact exhibit unequivocal traits that are foreign to

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postmodernist Weltanschauung. There are chapters in this book that make it clear some of the most celebrated postmodernist American writers of the last three decades employ postmodernist techniques of defragmentation and intertextuality not in order to reveal that (and how) the world is falling apart, but to participate in its becoming.6

1.4

This Book

Going through the contributions that are now the chapters of this book, it was becoming increasingly clear to me that the seemingly naïve approach to the subject matter undertaken in the conception of this book was in fact a necessary and productive one. Not only because it resulted in unorthodox observations challenging predominant theoretical stances, but, more importantly, because it enabled manifold insights into the ways literature – and fiction specifically – is and can be counted upon in the digital age. What will constitute the literary and its subjectmatter? What will be the nature of its worlds and participants? What role can literature play in the development and functioning of postmodern societies? The greatest challenge I faced when all the contributions were safely stored in one folder was to decide in what order they should appear in the book. My rather vague initial intention to organize them according to whether they probe hybridity of the very textual material – language, the story, the protagonists and literary worlds, genre placement, etc. – or from the perspective of global historical processes – be they social, cultural, economic, or political – was continually undermined. Each successive contribution I read provided reasons for (and suggested) a different structuring, until, after reading through them all, I realized that the ideal format to publish this book in would be internet hypertext, allowing for any imaginable order of going through the texts, which would be just as justified as the next. Regardless of how different the novels, the genre and the topic under scrutiny, regardless of how different the approach, observations by the nine authors intertwined with one another, forming an intricate, thoroughly interconnected network of the ways hybridity is at work in contemporary American fiction on every level, and in the process charting the manifold options it opens within the postmodern paradigm. Ultimately, I arranged the chapters, according to the immediate environment of their subject matter, into three provisional groupings, starting with those that probe the hybridity of what is generally considered (and marketed) as the mainstream, then those that probe it in various instances of genre fiction, and finally those that 6

Cf. Deleuze and Guattari, 2005, 281.

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trace it – based on their respective selections of fictional material – on the level of transculturalism and transmediality. The problem was far from being solved, as most chapters could rightfully be placed within any of these contexts, but I tried to position the ones which most rigidly refused categorization on the above terms toward the end of one section and the beginning of the (relevant) next, deciding, however, against the option of physically separating the book into three parts. The core of the first, “mainstream”, provisional section, are chapters on the works by three established, internationally recognised and oft-awarded authors: Ruth Ozeki, Paul Auster and Michael Cunningham. In reaction to a plethora of critical treatments of participants in the literary act in Ozeki’s 2013 A Tale for the Time Being, which all but eclipse other – just as confounding – aspects of this novel, the first chapter of the section sets out to explore the very foundations of the utter fluidity, indeterminateness, instability and interconnectedness of literary subjects in Ozeki’s book. Based largely on Baudrillard’s conceptual framework of postmodernity, specifically his recognition of the fractal nature of postmodern subjectivity, the analysis reveals that the utter hybridity of protagonists in A Tale for the Time Being matches the structure and the functioning of postmodern individuals within the contemporary (Western/ised) societies. As a result, Ozeki’s work offers an insight into the ways in which traditional concepts of author, narrator, literary character and reader dissolve into a hybrid open-ended entity that may very well be the literary identity intrinsic of literature in postmodernity. If Ozeki’s work emphasizes the productivity and promise offered by the new modes of reality and identity creation, Auster’s take on the postmodern condition in his 2006 Travels in the Scriptorium, which was largely written off by the critical community as “clever metafictional ludism,”7 is decidedly morose. Understandably so, since the novel delves into the grimmer, and – sadly – more tangible consequences of the change of paradigm. Within the postmodern state of affairs, one may very well feel one is in charge of constructing one’s immediate reality and identity according to one’s preferences. But what if these preferences, these countless possibilities of what one can be (erupting daily from our media), are thoroughly controlled and manipulated by the political, economic and cultural institutions of postindustrial capitalism? By focusing on the hybridity of space in the novel, as observed at the cross-section of the American sublime, Foucault’s heterotopias, Baudrillard’s hyperreality, and Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome, the third chapter of this book interprets the role reversal in the structure of space that Auster undertakes in Travels, as his attempt to get actively involved with the actual (writerly) 7

See “Travels in the Scriptorium: Origins” in chapter 3 of this book.

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existence in contemporary American reality. As a consequence, the safety and freedom of confined spaces, justifying authorial relevance in his earlier novels, merge with the oppressive and controlling outside in the totality of the hyperreal. The dense self-referential network Auster weaves in this work can therefore no longer be considered as metafictional ludism of a postmodernist author. Rather, it is an in situ record of how in present circumstances a writer’s work dissolves delineations between memory, reality, and fiction, between self and others, between the book and the world, forming an ominous prison within which one is rendered impotent precisely because within media-governed societies one is a fractal segment of all. A further examination of the nature of metafictionality and intertextuality, those automatic markers of a book’s postmodernist status in so much critical writing, is offered in chapter four, where Cunningham’s The Hours is scrutinized. Generally considered both a superb intertextual rendering of Virginia Woolf ’s Mrs. Dalloway and as such a prime example of postmodernist destabilization of (objective) reality and the (Cartesian subjective) self, Cunningham’s 1998 novel may seem indicative of the reluctance of the mainstream to accommodate (to) the new modes of perception of reality and self – concepts which, at the time the novel was written, were already firmly in place. However, the discourse analysis of linguistic features that establish, maintain and strengthen the intertextual links between The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway attests to decisive differences in the role intertextuality plays in Cunningham’s work, and the purpose it serves in postmodernist works. Even though a linguistic investigation of both novels confirms The Hours is an example of text imitation and adaptation of Woolf ’s work, at the lexical and the structural levels a considerable deviation from Woolf ’s narrative technique can be observed. The Hours all but abandons the stream-of-consciousness so meticulously developed by Woolf in Mrs Dalloway, and provides Cunningham’s Clarissa – and her facets Virginia and Laura – with an agency foreign to the modernist mindset. The protagonists of The Hours participate in the world, co- and re-creating it anew. The intertextuality in The Hours is therefore an instance of hybridization, typical of postmodern creation of various discourses by combining, rearranging and modifying different elements from the cultural heritage, which, like other objects of consumption, circulate through our mediascapes as signs to be appropriated at will. The product of this process is a narrative that superficially gives the impression of being a copy of an original; however, this copy lacks the real referent, and as a bona fide Baudrillardian simulacrum of the third order participates in the creation of postmodern realities. The following two chapters pave the way heading into the section that examines what is traditionally considered genre fiction. Even though the works they

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thematise might be regarded as instances of the genres of sports writing and LGBTQ fiction, the very features that justify such placement are taken under scrutiny to reveal how, in these works, that which seemingly divides us is in fact that which ultimately brings us together. Thus, the genre focus becomes the metaphor for the concerns normally associated with mainstream production. In other words, Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland is just as informative and of interest to readers who may not be into sports at all as Armistead Maupin’s novels in the Tales of the City series are to so-called straight audiences. Chapter 5 examines the role of cricket, that pillar of English tradition, as a means of fitting into American society for immigrants from all over the world, regardless of their social statuses. The potential of the game to “Americanise” the multi-ethnic team of players in Netherland – and thus participate in their hybridization – is the fact that the way they play it is adapted to the shoddy American grounds, which forces them to adjust their swing to play an American version of the game, which, then, is in itself a hybrid; a model which produces an American original. Hybridization is therefore exposed as the main formula as well as a vehicle for the formation and growth of American reality and identity, evident not only in sports but on all the levels of American cultural and social life. What cricket does for/to sports fiction in Netherland, another English import – the Victorian form of serial fiction – does for the LGBTQ fiction in Maupin’s series Tales of the City. Because the books are published regularly over several years, the characters start to seem like old friends. This, and the tendency of serial fiction to make the private public, endow such fiction with the ability to bring into play something that would otherwise remain foreign. In the case of Maupin’s nine novels, following the lives and fates of a group of predominantly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters for almost four decades, audiences are seamlessly familiarised with the queer culture, its similarities with the dominant culture, as well as with its intricacies. This growing familiarity and the feeling of closeness with the characters, which contributes to the mainstreaming of queerness in these novels, is largely due to Maupin’s slight but decisive alteration of the original Victorian serial formula – thus effectively hybridising it. The novels resist the typical movement toward marriage of two protagonists who discover through the course of the narrative that they are destined for each other. Instead, Maupin focuses on the marriage as such after a couple, queer or straight, have formed a relationship, and in so doing touches upon the universal issues of the meaning and the reality of marriage, and the ways in which the characters navigate their relationships. The chapter opening the section comprised of works belonging to the more or less agreed upon types of genre fiction examines crime fiction writer James Elroy’s

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autobiographies The Hilliker Curse (2010) and My Dark Places (1996). After establishing the essentially hybrid nature of autobiographical narratives – which exist on the margin of the literary and non-literary in a manner that is a priori rhizomatic – the chapter sets out to illustrate this point by analysing the two autobiographies by using Deleuze and Guattari’s method of schizoanalysis, i.e. “the analysis of desire” (2005, 203). With regard to the role that traumatic childhood experiences played in Elroy’s crime fiction and his life in general, the detected range of desires at work in his fictional opus understandably corresponds to that evident in – and driving – the two autobiographies. The autobiographies (together with his other literary works) therefore, through countless de- and reterritorializations, construct the rhizome of Elroy’s life, in which The Hilliker Curse and My Dark Places represent respective plateaus. With that, the margins between the author and his characters, between self and others, between reality and fiction, between the book and the world, are effectively abolished in the dance of endless desire-driven becomings on the path to becoming-world. Chapter 8 delves into contemporary production that has generically been referred to as slipstream, fiction that makes one “feel very strange” (Kelly and Kessel, 2006, viii) but is at the same time oddly familiar. The common denominator of slipstream novels and short stories is precisely their inherent hybridism as they defy genre categorisation by freely employing conventions from across the genre spectrum. Scrutinising the hybrid nature of slipstream, the chapter identifies cognitive dissonance (traditionally demarcating the boundaries of the sci-fi genre) as the principle which guides contradictory views, beliefs, and perceptions maintained in the stories that seemingly possess the literary tropes of science fiction, toward territories that are foreign to it. However, within the postmodern paradigm, the impact and effects of cognitive dissonance and estrangement are decisively different from those envisioned by Suvin, ultimately charting the ways in which contemporary reality is perceived by postmodern individuals. The analyses of Lethem’s Amnesia Moon (1995) and Chronic City (2009), Cunningham’s Specimen Days (2005) and Pynchon’s Against the Day (2006) effectively demonstrate that the proposed modus operandi of slipstream not only blurs the boundaries between various genres, but also those separating genre writing from the mainstream. The reasons for the “mainstreamisation” of various instances of genre fiction, as well as its possible social and cultural consequences, are explored in the next two chapters. With regard to the reality-forming potential of media in contemporary societies, literature – fundamentally a medium – necessarily participates in the structuring of the real, ultimately becoming the real. Since before the actualisation

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Mojca Krevel (ed.) ISBN 978-961-237-916-2

ISBN 978-961-237-916-2

9 789612 379162

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Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction

Mojca Krevel (ed.)

Mojca Krevel is an associate professor at the English Department of the University of Ljubljana, where she teaches various courses on English and American fiction. Her research focuses on those phenomena in contemporary American prose that correspond to social, economic and historical circumstances intrinsic to the postmodern paradigm. Her areas of interest include contemporary prose, critical theory, new media, posthumanism and cybercultures. She is the author of monographs on literary cyberpunk (Kiberpank v literaturi, 2001) and on the Avant-Pop movement (Izvidniki v puščavi resničnosti, 2010), a number of articles and book chapters on contemporary American fiction, and she is the co-author (with Uroš Mozetič) of Miracles of Rare Device: English Verse from the Elizabethans to the Moderns (2012). Since 2016 she has been the co-editor of the academic journal ELOPE: English Language Perspectives and Enquiries.

Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction

Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction provides a particularly creative and wide-ranging set of lenses on contemporary U.S. fiction, which in turn should inspire more critical inquiries on the subject. The book convincingly demonstrates that our own era is marked by literary eclecticism; hybrid fictions employ a wide variety of approaches, present conflicting viewpoints, and blend media and technological forms. While many studies on postmodern American fiction offer a narrow focus, this volume takes a more expansive approach, providing ample opportunities for the reader to delve into multiple forms of hybridity. Additionally, the volume seeks to broaden our engagement with postmodern American novels, creating space for works that might get pigeonholed into more generically based categories, such as LGBT fiction, autobiographies, science fiction, or young adult fiction. Moreover, the authorship of this collection is itself a hybridized rhizomatic project, interconnecting and deterritorializing scholars from an array of nationalities, universities, departments, perspectives, and disciplines. Lisa Botshon

10.5.2017 9:55:28

Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction  

Becoming World: Probing Hybridity in Postmodern American Fiction provides a particularly creative and wide–ranging set of lenses on contempo...

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