John Irving and Cultural Mourning

John Irving and Cultural Mourning

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Alone among contemporary American novelists, John Irving seems to bridge the ever-present cultural divide between best-selling fiction and serious literary endeavour. His Irvingnesque style encapsulates the shifting patterns of American culture since the 1960s, expressing a mood of nostalgic melancholy or cultural mourning, which seems to go against ideas of the Postmodern. Indeed, Irving is one of the very few commercial novelists to be taught on university courses, this book is the first full-length study of his writing to situate him within the social, historical and political context of his times. It contends that postmodernism derives from the political failure of the sixties and a narcissistic obsession with the composition of the self. This narcissism is at the same time what Freud labels as cultural melancholia, the mourning of a lost ideal self-image. Just as nostalgia appears as narcissistic history, this lost self-image conjures up the figure of the Dead Father and the Father's Law, a figure which Irving's prose obsessively pursues.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 198 pages
  • 152.4 x 231.14 x 20.32mm | 816.46g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 073913793X
  • 9780739137932

Review quote

This thoughtful and elegant study helps to illuminate not only the contradictory melancholia and mourning at the heart of John Irving's fiction, but also reaches out to trace its contours in terms of a wider American cultural history. The author moves between theoretical sophistication and close critical reading with accomplished ease, and her interpretations of postmodernism, the sixties, Freud, Lacan and the Law of the Father, are never less than imaginative, original, and insightful. A major contribution to the study of American literature. -- Dr. Alan Bilton, Swansea University, UK, author of An Introduction to Contemporary American Fiction (2002) Underlying Dr. Belgaid's compelling analysis in this book is a series of theoretical issues about the nature of cultural mourning and the loss of the ideal self-image in John Irving's narrative discourse. With her remarkable close reading of Irving's different novels, published in different phases of his life, Dr. Belgaid clarifies her theoretical issues in a fascinating manner that will surely attract not only Irving's readers but any reader who loves logical reasoning and convincing argument. Her feminist perspective, her acute awareness of the validity of other interpretations of Irving's work, combined with her extraordinary versatility in American literature, have qualified this book for academia as well. -- Dr. Said Mentak, University Mohammed I, Oujda, Morocco Bouchra Belgaid's John Irving and Cultural Mourning is a thorough reassessment of Irving's oeuvre that simultaneously offers a radical interpretation of Postmodern American cultural mourning. Belgaid argues that Irving's problematic Postmodernism derives from the political failure of the sixties that engendered a cultural mourning that the novelist can only resolve through nostalgic re-assertion of the Law of the Father, a lost American ideal self image that unifies the fragmented Postmodern self of his central male protagonists. -- Lucy Melbourne, Saint Augustine's Collegeshow more

About Bouchra Belgaid

Bouchra Belgaid is assistant professor in the English Department at the University Mohamed I, Oujda.show more

Table of contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Chapter 1: Postmodernism or "the literature of exhaustion" Chapter 3 Chapter 2: The Sixties: Years of throwing off Inhibitions Chapter 4 Chapter 3: Irving's Family Romances Chapter 5 Chapter 4: Irving and Narcissism Chapter 6 Chapter 5: Mourning and Grief in Irving's Fiction Chapter 7 Epilogue: The Fourth Hand and groping toward self-redemptionshow more

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