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E. L. Doctorow’s Skeptical Commitment

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Michelle M. Tokarczyk

This book gives a political reading of E. L. Doctorow’s fiction. For Doctorow, there was a tension between the ideals of his socially aware family and those of the new critics under whom he studied as an undergraduate. This tension, making him skeptical about the possibilities of political involvement, has been beneficial because it has enabled Doctorow to avoid the excesses of both polemical writing and formalism. Through a stance Tokarczyk terms «skeptical commitment» he has written political fiction of high literary quality. In part, he has done so by adapting genres such as the western and the romance. Furthermore, Doctorow has used experimental techniques to express political and historical themes, thereby writing a kind of postmodern fiction that still maintains the possibility of establishing some truths, while acknowledging indeterminacy.