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Contemporary American Trauma Narratives$
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Alan Gibbs

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748641147

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641147.001.0001

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It Could Happen Here: Trauma and Contemporary American Counterfactuals

It Could Happen Here: Trauma and Contemporary American Counterfactuals

(p.201) Chapter 5 It Could Happen Here: Trauma and Contemporary American Counterfactuals
Contemporary American Trauma Narratives

Alan Gibbs

Edinburgh University Press

The final chapter examines the depiction of trauma in three counterfactual novels which respond in some way to post-9/11 America: Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. The chapter treats these works as, to varying degrees, experimental novels which, moreover, mark some sort of return to a form of naturalism. All three novels feature protagonists who struggle to maintain agency, beset as they are by forces greater than themselves, in a way familiar from earlier forms of naturalism and also to be found in other novels of the period (for example in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs and Andre Dubus III’s The Garden of Last Days). The chapter suggests that the realism/neo-naturalism of the writers considered in this chapter is a form of reaction against the prevailing anti-realist trauma aesthetic.

Keywords:   agency, naturalism, counterfactual narrative, alternative history, Roth, Chabon, Auster

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