The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

By Kathleen Fitzpatrick

It nearly is going with no announcing that the increase in acclaim for tv has killed the viewers for "serious" literature. this is often this sort of on condition that studying Fitzpatrick's problem to this suggestion might be very disconcerting, as she lines the ways that a small cadre of writers of "serious" literature--DeLillo, Pynchon, and Franzen, for instance--have propagated this delusion on the way to set themselves up because the final bastions of fine writing. Fitzpatrick first explores no matter if severe literature used to be ever as all-pervasive as critics of the tv tradition declare after which asks the most obvious query: what, or who, precisely, are those men protecting sturdy writing against?

Fitzpatrick examines the ways that the anxiousness concerning the meant demise of the radical is equipped on a delusion of the novel's prior ubiquity and its current displacement via tv. She explores the ways that this delusion performs out in and round modern fiction and the way it serves as one of those unacknowledged discourse approximately race, category, and gender. The statement constructs a minority prestige for the "white male author" who wishes keeping from television's mostly girl and more and more non-white viewers. the radical, then, is remodeled from a main technique of communique into an old, nearly forgotten, and hence, valuable shape reserved for the well-educated and well-to-do, and the boys who perform it are exalted because the practitioners of a virtually misplaced art.

Such positioning serves to additional marginalize girls writers and writers of colour since it makes the radical, through definition, the look after of the terrible endangered white guy. If the unconventional is simply a made of a small team of white males, how can the contributions of girls and writers of colour be well-known? as a substitute, this positioning abandons ladies and other people of colour to tv as an inventive outlet, and in go back, cedes tv to them. Fitzpatrick argues that there's a degree of unrecognized patronization in assuming that tv serves no goal yet to supply dumb leisure to bored girls and others too silly to appreciate novels. And, as a substitute, she demonstrates the true optimistic results of a televisual tradition.

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Nonethe- 22 | The Anxiety of Obsolescence less, he writes in a distinctly elegiac mode, suggesting that one of the ways in which those shocks are registered is in the waning of literary authority. I do not anticipate a future utterly without books, or bereft of all discourse about ideas, or entirely given over to utilitarian pursuits. No, what I fear is a continued withering-away of influence, a diminution of the literary which brings about a flattened new world in which only a small coterie traffics in the matters that used to be deemed culturally central.

17 Whose judgment this rejection of writing ultimately represents—that of Thamus, Socrates, or Plato—is open to question, but it is important to note that the Socratic method of teaching relied upon the existence of a primarily oral culture, and that the introduction of writing to that culture could undermine the method. 18 Just as Mann argues that the modern era is typified by the numberless “deaths” of varying cultural forms, the era is likewise characterized by the continuous hue and cry over the cultural effects of new technologies.

These affinities between the machinic and the cultural become pronounced in the moment of modernization. 21 This shift reflects a simultaneous cultural rejection of the Romantic dominant and a longing for the return of that dominant in response to the machine. Marx’s “machine in the garden,” the trope of technology’s incursion into a mythologized nature, thus recurs in literary texts from the late nineteenth century onward as a continuing and intensifying—rather than momentary and localized—conflict between the Romantic ideal and a changing contemporary culture.

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