Rejecting the empowered reader: re-claiming authorial agency in twenty-first century, avant-garde fiction

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emily Hall (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Ben Clark

Abstract: This dissertation analyzes twenty-first century British avant-garde fiction and argues that a defining literary issue is the shifting dynamic between writers and readers. In particular, the dissertation examines avant-garde authors and the ways in which they conceptualize their readers and their own positions in the literary market place. Contemporary avant-garde writers often claim that their authority has been transferred to an empowered reading public. I explore how material changes including new publishing trends and digitization have re-defined and even blurred the distinctions between authors and readers. I then contextualize these concerns by historicizing anxieties about control, readers, and the marketplace to better show how notions of authority are contingent upon shifts in publishing practices, the expansion of the reading public, and the economic conditions of authorship. In order to demonstrate how these evolving dynamics impact literature, I use the novels of Gabriel Josipovici, Jeanette Winterson, and William Self to show how writers use their fiction to both critique empowered readers and to restore their authority. My study makes the following critical interventions: First, scholarly works on members of the avant-garde have long argued that these authors ignore writing about “real” issues in favor of abstract ideas about literature, beauty, and art. I counter these claims by illuminating how contemporary avant-garde writers are in fact responding to the same economic and cultural pressures as those authors who write for mass audiences. Second, the dissertation contributes to an emerging discussion about literary trends after the millennium. Critics recently have observed that contemporary British writers are aligning themselves with Modernist aesthetics and ideologies. My dissertation suggests that we can only understand this return to Modernism by juxtaposing Modernist and post-Postmodernist concerns about the influence of mass culture on literature and authorial agency.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Authorship, Avant-Garde, British, Fiction, Twenty-First
Experimental fiction, English $x History and criticism
English fiction $y 21st century $x History and criticism
Authors and readers
Josipovici, Gabriel, $d 1940- $x Criticism and interpretation
Winterson, Jeanette, $d 1959- $x Criticism and interpretation
Self, Will $x Criticism and interpretation

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