Dissolving Critiques: Capitalism and Space-time in the American Novel, 1888 - 1996
Dissolving Critiques examines the late nineteenth- and twentieth-century American novel’s critical engagement with the conditions of life under capitalism. Reading works of realism, naturalism, and utopian fiction through M.M. Bakhtin’s theory of the literary chronotope, I argue that the novels under consideration render the capitalist production of space legible as a social injustice antithetical to the ideals of freedom and human flourishing and represent capitalism’s transcendence as an imperative of reason. However, I also contend that these critiques risk dissolving, as the texts confront and inevitably fail to manage the seemingly irresolvable problems inherent in their own progressive desires. In choosing “dissolve” as a key term, I mean to highlight the term’s potential visual, “scenic” qualities, for like a film dissolve, the dissolving critique seems to offer one scene of possible alternative that then dissolves back into the original scene, as though unable to hold. In this sense, the dissolving critique exposes the mechanisms of narrative failure. But although such dissolution inevitably disappoints any progressive desires of a reader/critic such as myself, I also argue that even when the critical image dissolves, a lingering sense of possible alternatives to capitalism remains—like afterimages in a scene.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/28794
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