After the End of History: American Fiction in the 1990s by Samuel Cohen

By Samuel Cohen

During this daring booklet, Samuel Cohen asserts the literary and old significance of the interval among the autumn of the Berlin wall and that of the dual Towers in long island. With fresh readability, he examines six Nineteen Nineties novels and post-9/11 novels that discover the effect of the tip of the chilly struggle: Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, Roth's American Pastoral, Morrison's Paradise, O'Brien's within the Lake of the Woods, Didion's the very last thing He sought after, Eugenides's Middlesex, Lethem's castle of Solitude, and DeLillo's Underworld. Cohen emphasizes how those works reconnect the earlier to a gift that's satirically a fan of denying that connection. Exploring the methods principles approximately paradise and pastoral, distinction and exclusion, innocence and righteousness, triumph and trauma deform the tales americans inform themselves approximately their nation’s earlier, After the top of historical past demanding situations us to re-examine those works in a brand new gentle, delivering clean, insightful readings of what are destined to be vintage works of literature. whilst, Cohen enters into the theoretical dialogue approximately postmodern ancient figuring out. Throwing his hat within the ring with strength and magnificence, he confronts not just Francis Fukuyama’s triumphalist reaction to the autumn of the Soviet Union but in addition the opposite literary and political “end of heritage” claims placed forth through such theorists as Fredric Jameson and Walter Benn Michaels. In an easy, affecting sort, After the tip of background deals us a brand new imaginative and prescient for the features and confines of up to date fiction.

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The tale is told by the Rev. Wicks Cherry­coke, who was a member of the expedition and who has come to stay (and stay and stay) with family on the occasion of Mason’s demise in 1786. Mason, as astronomer, and Dixon, as surveyor, are professionally dedicated to the measuring, charting, and drawing of lines. The task that occupies the majority of their time in the novel is to plot and cut an eight-yard-wide line. But this is only the first and most obvious way in which Mason & Dixon is about lines.

Mason and Dixon run into a number of examples of the subjunctive, both before they begin their line and as they blaze it across the frontier, discovering what would seem impossible and its near simultaneous disappearance or destruction — its absorption into the bare, mortal world. When anything seems possible, the Enlightenment certainties, it seems, reassert themselves. In their travels, Mason and Dixon come across, among many other unlikely phenomena, a talking dog, a flying mechanical duck with a crush on an unwilling French chef, a giant cheese, the ghost of Mason’s late wife, and a race of people living inside the earth.

Their profound anxiety found some release, then, in works, faith, close attention to who would receive grace, and attempts to define their earthly version of paradise as open only to those who could call themselves the English, as they referred to themselves. The scrutiny on identity defined by group membership and the defensive stance against the external continue, one hundred years later, to shape attitudes about nation, religion, race, and countless other arenas in which lines of exclusion could be drawn.

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