History and Refusal

Consumer Culture and Post Modern Theory in the Contemporary American Novel
Stephen N. DoCarmo
Lehigh University Press - History and Refusal
This book examines the ways six remarkably disparate novels formulate critiques of a late-capitalist consumer culture proclaimed in recent years to be all but unassailable. Beginning with a consideration of John Gardner’s October Light and Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho—two novels demonstrating the poverty of traditional (or essentialist) right- and left-wing attacks on mass culture—the volume later turns its attention to the more postmodernist and poststructuralist critiques of Thomas Pynchon (Vineland), Mark Leyner (Et Tu, Babe), Bobbie Ann Mason (In Country) and Don DeLillo (White Noise), connecting these novelists’ ideas to those of such cultural theorists as Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard, Gayatri Spivak, and Jean-François Lyotard, among others. With their assertions that neither capital (which becomes analogous to language itself) nor the simulation-laden culture it spawns must be razed or escaped before we can build a more humane society, these novelists and thinkers illuminate the “post-Marxist” habits of mind our culture’s most serious dissenters will have to employ from now on. 
Offering close and insightful readings of the aforementioned novels and providing a refreshingly lucid introduction to significant critical and philosophical trends of recent decades, History and Refusal will be useful to both instructors and students of contemporary literature and theory. It will also be of interest to thinkers in any field concerned with how best to advance progressive political interests in a United States—and, indeed, a world—as thoroughly corporatized a the present one. Like the novelists and postmodern theorists it examines, this book draws out attention to the progressive possibilities inherent in the market and the susceptibility of “dominant” discourses and media to appropriation by those with non-corporate agendas. In doing so, it works to alleviate the “politics of resignation and despair” Douglas Kellner has named, illustrating that corporatism and progressivism do not have to be mutually exclusive terms; that media-shaped subjectivity does not have to be passive subjectivity; and that capital is a language that can be used to speak any will, forward any cause. It is a book well-suited to a cultural moment when more and more citizens want alternatives to the  over-reductive, left-versus-right paradigm that has dominated our critical and cultural imaginations too long.
9781611460544 (R&L)
9780980149616 (AUP)
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