Reconstructing Metafiction: Politics, Ethics, and Resistance in the American Century

Author: ORCID icon
Colton, Aaron, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Levenson, Michael, Department of English, University of Virginia
Olwell, Victoria, Department of English, University of Virginia
Luftig, Victor, Department of English, University of Virginia

“Reconstructing Metafiction: Ethics, Politics, and Resistance in the American Century” recontextualizes and retheorizes the relationship between self-referentiality and the capacity of fiction to contribute to ethical and political thought. Challenging the putative understanding that metafiction is merely symptomatic of either 1) abstract experimentalism or 2) deconstructive postmodernism, it traces an American tradition in which metafiction has served as a method for delineating and contesting limitations on discourse, political imagination, ethical engagement, and sexual and gender identity imposed under later-stage capitalism (from the Second Industrial Revolution through neoliberalism). The dissertation thus offers a genealogy of American metafiction spanning from 1919 to 2010—including works by Sherwood Anderson, Leslie Marmon Silko, David Foster Wallace, Sheila Heti, and Salvador Plascencia—demonstrating how a fiction that reflects on the conditions of fiction writing is also, at its most radical, a fiction primed to reflect on local, national, and global conditions for speech, thought, identity, and relationality. Two chapters illustrate metafictionally-driven challenges to economic constraints on queer subjectivity and anti-capitalist epistemologies. The final chapter and coda explore metafictional inquiries into the visibility of dominated others under U.S. imperialism and the role of postcolonial literature in building populist coalitions against neoliberal capitalism.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Metafiction, American Literature, 20th and 21st Century, Critical Theory, Sherwood Anderson, David Foster Wallace, Sheila Heti, Leslie Marmon Silko, Salvador Plascencia
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: