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Periodizing the ‘80s: “The Differential of History” in Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine

From: MFS Modern Fiction Studies
Volume 57, Number 2, Summer 2011
pp. 300-317 | 10.1353/mfs.2011.0048



This essay examines how Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine shifts engagement with the details of the material world consistently onto the axis of temporality. It also examines how, in so doing, Baker’s novel fashions a theory of periodization in which historical and social trends and events are relegated in importance. Asking how the detail or moment might both alter an understanding of the general and spread time to infinite proportions, The Mezzanine casts doubt on the process of periodizing by way of metonymy and synecdoche and offers instead a contingent and improvised version of the 1980s.