The quiet contemporary American novel

By Rachel Sykes

The quiet contemporary American novel


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0889-0
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: December 2017
  • BIC Category: Literature, United States of America, USA, Popular culture, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literary studies: c 1900 to c 2000, Biography, Literature & Literary studies, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture, LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: from c 1900 -, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literature & literary studies / General


This book explores the concept of 'quiet' - an aesthetic of narrative driven by reflective principles - and argues for the term's application to the study of contemporary American fiction. In doing so, it makes two critical interventions. Firstly, it maps the neglected history of quiet fictions, arguing that from Hester Prynne to Clarissa Dalloway, from Bartleby to William Stoner, the Western tradition is filled with quiet characters. Secondly, it asks what it means for a novel to be quiet and how we might read for quiet in an American literary tradition that critics so often describe as noisy. Examining recent works by Marilynne Robinson, Teju Cole and Ben Lerner, among others, the book argues that quiet can be a multi-faceted state of existence, one that is communicative and expressive in as many ways as noise but filled with potential for radical discourse by its marginalisation as a mode of expression.


'A stylishly written monograph that is packed with interesting readings of contemporary American novels.'
The Cambridge Quarterly

'The Quiet Contemporary American Novel urges us to consider 'quiet' as a dynamic force and, indeed, by concluding with some of the more troubling aspects of quiet as represented in Cole and Lerner's novels, it enacts that dynamic - propelling further, deeper contemplation.'
European Journal of American Culture


1 The quiet novel
2 '9/11' and the aesthetic of noise in contemporary fiction
3 Quiet in time and narrative
4 The quiet novel of cognition
5 The novel of '(dis)quiet'


Rachel Sykes is Lecturer in Contemporary American Literature at the University of Birmingham

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