New York and Toronto Novels after Postmodernism

New York and Toronto Novels after Postmodernism

Explorations of the Urban

Caroline Rosenthal

First comparative study of urban fiction in the US and Canada investigates representations of the urban after postmodernism in two New York and two Toronto novels.
Cities are material and symbolic spaces through which nations define their cultural identities. The great cities that have arisen on the North American continent have stimulated the imaginations of the United States and Canada in very different ways. This first comparative study of North American urban fiction starts out by delineating the sociohistorical and literary contexts in which cities grew into diverging symbolic spaces in American and Canadian culture. After an overview of recent developments in the cultural conception of urban space, the book takes New York and Toronto fiction as exemplary for exploring representations of the urban after postmodernism.
It analyzes four twenty-first-century novels: two set in New York - Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved and Paule Marshall's The Fisher King - and two set in Toronto - Carol Shields's Unless and Dionne Brand's What We All Long For. While these texts continue to echo the specific traditions of nation building and canon formation in the United States and Canada, they also share certain features. All of them investigate the affective crossroads of the city while returning to a more realistic mode of representation.

Caroline Rosenthal is Professor of American Literature at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany.

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Table of Contents

Imagining National Space: Symbolic Landscapes andNational Canons
Articulating Urban Space: Spatial Politics and Difference
"The Inadequacy of Symbolic Surfaces": Urban Space, Art,and Corporeality in Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved
Rewriting the Melting Pot: Paule Marshall's BrownstoneCity in The Fisher King
Specular Images: Sub/Urban Spaces and "Echoes of Art"in Carol Shields's Unless
"The End of Traceable Beginnings": Poetics of UrbanLonging and Belonging in Dionne Brand's What We AllLong For


[The book's] range of reference, depth of scholarship, and intellectual reach is very impressive . . . . This is a valuable book that will appeal to a wide range of readers, from theorists of what Rosenthal calls "the spatial turn in the humanities and the cultural turn in geography," to students and scholars of contemporary fiction, to anyone with an interest in the (post)modern city. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

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