How can literature imagine escape from the state when “there is no outside” is the only master narrative left? Politically oppositional American fiction and poetry has faced this dilemma for fifty years and counting, struggling to exit the political state that, by its very inescapability, makes escape all the more urgent. I argue that postmodernist and contemporary American literature engages this political impasse at the structural intersection of literature and politics: representation. Dominant scholarly debates leave us to choose between postmodernism as reproducing the logic of the neoliberal state or as generating more democratic inclusion within it, but this binary neglects the ways poets and novelists have imagined flight from the state by figuring literary representation as metaphor, homology, or synecdoche for political representation. Writers ranging from the canonically postmodernist, such as Charles Olson and Don DeLillo, to the globalized contemporary, such as Nathaniel Mackey and Karen Tei Yamashita, work to imagine a politically transformative exit from the state, manifesting in their formal experiments and thematic interests a politics and poetics of escape.
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McKelvey, Seth, "No Exit: The Poetics of Escape in Postmodernist and Contemporary American Literature" (2018). English Theses and Dissertations. 2.
Available for download on Monday, May 08, 2023