Do You Feel It Too?

The Post-Postmodern Syndrome in American Fiction at the Turn of the Millennium


Do You Feel It Too? explores a new sense of self that is becoming manifest in experimental fiction written by a generation of authors who can be considered the ‘heirs’ of the postmodern tradition. It offers a precise, in-depth analysis of a new, post-postmodern direction in fiction writing, and highlights which aspects are most acute in the post-postmodern novel. Most notable is the emphatic expression of feelings and sentiments and a drive toward inter-subjective connection and communication. The self that is presented in these post-postmodern works of fiction can best be characterized as relational. To analyze this new sense of self, a new interpretational method is introduced that offers a sophisticated approach to fictional selves combining the insights of post-classical narratology and what is called ‘narrative psychology’. Close analyses of three contemporary experimental texts – Infinite Jest (1996) by David Foster Wallace, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000) by Dave Eggers, and House of Leaves (2000) by Mark Danielewski – provide insight into the typical problems that the self experiences in postmodern cultural contexts. Three such problems or ‘symptoms’ are singled out and analyzed in depth: an inability to choose because of a lack of decision-making tools; a difficulty to situate or appropriate feelings; and a structural need for a ‘we’ (a desire for connectivity and sociality). The critique that can be distilled from these texts, especially on the perceived solipsistic quality of postmodern experience worlds, runs parallel to developments in recent critical theory. These developments, in fiction and theory both, signal, in the wake of poststructural conceptions of subjectivity, a perhaps much awaited ‘turn to the human’ in our culture at large today.

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“[…] the terms and concepts of literary postmodernism have themselves become topics to be assessed and evaluated by a new generation of artists, theorists, and writers against their own historical backdrop where these concepts are no longer new and radical but simply given. Nicole Timmer […] provides masterly examples of how to make sense of the novels and essays at hand.”
– Julius Greve (Köln), in Amerikastudien: A Quarterly 58.2 (2013), pp. 318-320
Part I: Frictions
Chapter 1: ‘something urgent and human’: beyond postmodernism, an introduction
Chapter 2: ‘being human’ in fiction: a narrative psychological approach
Intermezzo: three manifestoes
Part II: Symptoms and Possible Solutions
Chapter 3: Hal I.
Chapter 4: Dave E.
Chapter 5: Johnny T.
Part III: Conclusions and Connections
Chapter 6: the post-postmodern syndrome
Appendix: A list of some of the characteristics of the post-postmodern novel (in an almost random order)
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