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«We Search the Past … for Our Own Lost Selves.»

Representations of Historical Experience in Recent American Fiction

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Marta Koval

The book is a study of the most recent American fiction, published at the turn of the 21th century, which demonstrates a renewed interest in the matters of history. Using the concepts of memory and experience, the author points at the ways in which subjective history has been created in the new «novel about history», written by such authors as William Gass, Richard Powers, Marilynne Robinson, Nicholson Baker, Aleksandar Hemon, and Jeffrey Eugenides. Theoretically, the study has been inspired by the works of Aleida Assmann, Hayden White, Reinhart Koselleck, Frank Ankersmit, and Dominick LaCapra.

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Preface................................................................................................................... 7 List of Abbreviated Titles ................................................................................... 10 Chapter I History that Matters: Some New Ways of Problematizing History in Fiction ............................................................................................................ 11 1. New subjectivity in the humanities and in literature: tradition and novelty ....... 13 2. From cultural memory and experience to subjective history.......................... 29 3. The novel about history as a mode of fictional representation of the past............ 45 4. Historical event as a narrative category .......................................................... 54 Chapter II Subjective History in William Gass’s Novel The Tunnel or Side-Effects of Postmodern Diversity ................................................................................... 65 Chapter III Visual Tools of Subjective History-Making.................................................. 101 1. Micro- and macro-historical dimensions of art and its interpretation in Richard Powers’s novel Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance.......... 101 2. The ethical dimension of images and “commodified” memory in Nicholson Baker’s novel Checkpoint ....................................................... 127 Chapter IV “Holding Out for a Hint of Harmony”: Music, Subjective History, and Identity Quest in Richard Powers’s The Time of Our Singing ............ 145 Chapter V The Experience of and about History: The Multicultural Dimension of Subjective History-Making in The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides ................................................ 181 1. Glimpses of the past as mirrors of the present: subjective experience of history in The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon ............................ 183 2. Quest for identity and subjunctive history in Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex ...................................................................................................... 203 Chapter VI Moral Challenges of History in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Home ...... 219 Conclusions....................................................................................................... 241 Works Cited ...................................................................................................... 251

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