Amnesia and Redress in Contemporary American Fiction: by Marni Gauthier

By Marni Gauthier

This e-book exhibits how a political and cultural dynamic of amnesia and fact telling shapes literary structures of heritage. Gauthier makes a speciality of the works of Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Michelle Cliff, Bharati Mukherjee, and Julie Otsuka.

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Philosophers have called it acknowledgment. Others have called it respect” (xi). In this sense, through unconventional and often complex narratives—what some call “postmodern”—the texts that occupy me in these chapters inscribe an epistemological resistance within the telling of the event itself. Like particularist books, these historical novels (to borrow Sommer’s words) “detain” the reader, requiring “something besides the epistemological desire that drives readers towards data . . before they can do their productive work” (xi).

By linking the importance of “life” and “reality” to historical contents that are not merely “absent” as Berkhofer says but “buried and disguised,” Foucault points to an archival past that, although it is in no way totally accessible, does “emerge” through the work of a criticism that mines absences and silences as omissions and as sources for history writing. A Foucauldian “effective history” is “a painstaking rediscovery of struggles together with the rude memory of their conflicts” (Power 83).

In similar proportion, Elias’s extensive study of over 30 novels includes five by women. Although most of the novels that comprise Amnesia and Redress are by women writers of color, I did not choose them for that reason but for their cultural work of truth telling that, along with DeLillo’s historical novels, writes within and against postmodernism. Yet in that Peterson, by contrast, focuses on “postmodern histories written solely by women of color” to “reconceptualiz[e] postmodernism so that the narratives and issues of concern to women and minority fiction are no longer seen as eccentric but as fundamental to the postmodern condition,” my book is indebted to hers.

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