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Ethics and Nostalgia in the Contemporary Novel


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 (ISBN-13: 9780511133985 | ISBN-10: 0511133987)

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Images of loss and yearning played a crucial role in literary texts written in the later part of the twentieth century. Despite deep cultural differences, novelists from Africa, the Caribbean, Great Britain, and the United States share a sense that the economic, social, and political forces associated with late modernity have evoked widespread nostalgia within the communities in which they write. In this original and wide-ranging study, John J. Su explores the relationship between nostalgia and ethics in novels across the English-speaking world. He challenges the tendency in literary studies to characterise memory as positive and nostalgia as necessarily negative. Instead, this book argues that nostalgic fantasies are crucial to the ethical visions presented by topical novels. From Jean Rhys to Wole Soyinka and from V. S. Naipaul to Toni Morrison, Su identifies nostalgia as a central concern in the twentieth-century novel.

• An original investigation of nostalgia in literature and culture of the twentieth century • Ranges across the Anglophone world • Discusses Jean Rhys, Wole Soyinka, V. S. Naipaul and Toni Morrison, among others


Introduction: nostalgia, ethics, and contemporary Anglophone literature; 1. Narratives of return: locating ethics in the age of globalisation; 2. Nostalgia and narrative ethics in Caribbean literature; 3. 'Loss was in the order of things': recalling loss, reclaiming place in Native American fiction; 4. Refiguring national character: the remains of the British estate novel; 5. Appeasing an embittered history: trauma and nationhood in the writings of Achebe and Soyinka; Conclusion: nostalgia and its futures.


Review of the hardback: '… a theoretical examination of nostalgia in literature is both important and long overdue … there is much … work to be done in this field. Su's book will be helpful in making that work possible, by finally recuperating nostalgia from its pejorative connotations, and asking literary critics to turn a more generous eye on nostalgia as a literary strategy and critical concept.' The Dalhousie Review

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