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Penn Studies in Contemporary American Fiction

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Penn Studies in Contemporary American Fiction

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Beyond the Red Notebook

Essays on Paul Auster

Edited by Dennis Barone

The novels of Paul Auster—finely wrought, self-reflexive, filled with doublings, coincidences, and mysteries—have captured the imagination of readers and the admiration of many critics of contemporary literature. In Beyond the Red Notebook, the first book devoted to the works of Auster, Dennis Barone has assembled an international group of scholars who present twelve essays that provide a rich and insightful examination of Auster's writings.

The authors explore connections between Auster's poetry and fiction, the philosophical underpinnings of his writing, its relation to detective fiction, and its unique embodiment of the postmodern sublime. Their essays provide the fullest analysis available of Auster's themes of solitude, chance, and paternity found in works such as The Invention of Solitude, City of Glass, Ghosts, The Locked Room, In the Country of Last Things, Moon Palace, The Music of Chance, and Leviathan.

This volume includes contributions from Pascal Bruckner, Marc Chenetier, Norman Finkelstein, Derek Rubin, Madeleine Sorapure, Stephen Bernstein, Tim Woods, Steven Weisenburger, Arthur Saltzman, Eric Wirth, and Motoyuki Shibata. The extensive bibliography, prepared by William Drenttel, will greatly benefit both scholars and general readers.

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Dreams of Fiery Stars

The Transformations of Native American Fiction

By Catherine Rainwater

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1999

Since the 1968 publication of N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn, a new generation of Native American storytellers has chosen writing over oral traditions. While their works have found an audience by observing many of the conventions of the mainstream novel, Native American written narrative has emerged as something distinct from the postmodern novel with which it is often compared.

In Dreams of Fiery Stars, Catherine Rainwater examines the novels of writers such as Momaday, Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gerald Vizenor, and Louise Erdrich and contends that the very act of writing narrative imposes constraints upon these authors that are foreign to Native American tradition. Their works amount to a break with—and a transformation of—American Indian storytelling.

The book focuses on the agenda of social and cultural regeneration encoded in contemporary Native American narrative, and addresses key questions about how these works achieve their overtly stated political and revisionary aims. Rainwater explores the ways in which the writers "create" readers who understand the connection between storytelling and personal and social transformation; considers how contemporary Native American narrative rewrites Western notions of space and time; examines the existence of intertextual connections between Native American works; and looks at the vital role of Native American literature in mainstream society today.

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From Text to Hypertext

Decentering the Subject in Fiction, Film, the Visual Arts, and Electronic Media

By Silvio Gaggi

It is a tenet of postmodern writing that the subject—the self—is unstable, fragmented, and decentered. One useful way to examine this principle is to look at how the subject has been treated in various media in the premodern, modern, and postmodern eras. Silvio Gaggi pursues this strategy in From Text to Hypertext, analyzing the issue of subject construction and deconstruction in selected examples of visual art, literature, film, and electronic media. Gaggi concentrates on a few paradigmatic works in each chapter; he contrasts van Eyck's Wedding of Arnolfini with the photography of Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger; examines fiction that centers on an elusive subject in works by Conrad, Faulkner, and Calvino; and explores the ability of such films as Coppola's One from the Heart and Altman's The Player to emancipate the subject through cinematography and editing.

In considering electronic media, Gaggi takes his argument to an entirely new level. He focuses on computer-controlled media, specifically examples of hypertextual fiction by Michael Joyce and Stuart Moulthrop. Besides recognizing how the computer has enabled artists to create works of fiction in which readers themselves become decentered, Gaggi also observes the impact of literature created on computer networks, where even the limitations of CD-ROM are lifted and the notion of individual authorship may for all practical purposes be lost.

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Modern/Postmodern

A Study in Twentieth-Century Arts and Ideas

By Silvio Gaggi

This survey of 20th-century arts and ideas attempts to identify underlying epistemological, aesthetic and ethical issues. The author emphasizes how works from diverse media relate to one another and how their relationships affect the contemporary artistic and philosophical climate.

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Theoretical Fables

The Pedagogical Dream in Contemporary Latin American Literature

By Alicia Borinsky

Alicia Borinsky argues that the contemporary Latin American novel does not just ingeniously dismantle the referential claims of the more traditional novel; it offers a postmodern version of the lessons taught by fiction.

Latin American fiction, perhaps the most inventive literature of recent decades, seems marked by its self-reflexivity, by its playful relationship to history and the everyday, and by its concerns with the ways in which language works. But is it, Borinsky asks, really a literature whose primary goal is to raise metafictional questions about writing and reading? While the effects of this literature include dismantling the illusions of realism, naturalism, and historicism, the haunting and disturbing energy of its major works lies in their capacity of invoke a region beyond literature through literature.

Theoretical Fables progresses by way of close readings of the works of eight canonical—and not quite canonical—Latin American Authors. Borinsky argues that the Latin American "theoretical fable" has its origins in the work of the early twentieth-century Argentinean writer Macedonio Fernández. In this light she studies the works of Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Julio Cortázar, José Donoso, Adolfo Bioy Cesares, Manuel Puig, and Maria Luisa Bombal.

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Wrestling Angels into Song

The Fictions of Ernest J. Gaines and James Alan McPherson

By Herman Beavers

Herman Beavers offers a richly nuanced study of Ernes J. Gaines, James Alan McPherson, and Ralph Ellison as writers who have found ways to invest circumstances that might otherwise be seen as sites of squalor or despair with a sense of cultural vitality. He examines the Ellisonian themes and motifs the two later writers take up in their fiction, and looks at Ellison's influence on the strategies they enact to construct themselves as American writers.

For Beavers, the fictions of Ellison, Gaines, and McPherson are peopled by characters who value acts of storytelling and whose stories frame a fuller, more complex, and more inclusive version of American identity than those the dominant white culture has allowed.

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