The Poetics of Fragmentation in Contemporary British and American Fiction
Vanessa Guignery, Wojciech Drąg (Eds.)
by Merritt Moseley (University of North Carolina at Asheville, USA)
A dominant but deeply undertheorized feature of serious contemporary writing is its fragmentary nature. This book powerfully, intelligently, and rigorously fills that lack (lack being, of course, what fragmentation is forever exploring).
Professor at the University of Washington, author of 'Reality Hunger'
'The Poetics of Fragmentation' offers a wide-ranging and original exploration of the many forms and aims of fragmentation in contemporary fiction from Great Britain and the US. Reading the art of the fragment against a long history of literary experimentation with broken forms, collage and montage, it turns to some of the most prominent figures of contemporary fiction — from David Mitchell to David Foster Wallace, David Markson or Jeanette Winterson.
More than a panorama of contemporary fiction, the volume also offers a bracing reminder that fiction cannot be read in isolation from its cultural context. Essays devoted to the architecture of fiction, the impact of transmediality or the “shuffle narrative” also propose new readings of fiction’s inspiring capacity to constantly remediate itself.
'The Poetics of Fragmentation' will convince any reader passionate about contemporary fiction that experimentation remains an urgent concern of literature. Appropriating plural semiotic systems, from digital media to music, literature is still analyzed as pushing at the frontiers of it own language and one can only be grateful to the editors of the volume for making room for those often debated experimentations with multimodality ; an emphasis on multimodality that will no doubt appeal to a different set of readers.
A clearly-argued, erudite, efficient and well-paced volume that will offer many varied points of entry into the issue of fragmentation and that offers a welcome take on aesthetic categories that seemed to have lost some of their critical purchase.
Dr Catherine Bernard, Professor of British literature and art history,
Paris Diderot University, France
The last decades have seen a revival of fragmentation in British and American works of fiction that deny linearity, coherence and continuity in favour of disruption, gaps and fissures. Authors such as Ali Smith, David Mitchell and David Shields have sought new ways of representing our global, media-saturated contemporary experience which differ from modernist and postmodernist experimentations from which the writers nevertheless draw inspiration. This volume aims to investigate some of the most important contributions to fragmentary literature from British and American writers since the 1990s, with a particular emphasis on texts released in the twenty-first century. The chapters within examine whether contemporary forms of literary fragmentation constitute a return to the modernist episteme or the fragmented literature of exhaustion of the 1960s, mark a continuity with postmodernist aesthetics or signal a deviation from past models and an attempt to reflect today’s accelerated culture of social media and over-communication.
Contributors theorise and classify literary fragments, examine the relationship between fragmentation and the Zeitgeist (influenced by globalisation, media saturation and social networks), analyse the mechanics of multimodal and multimedial fictions, and consider the capacity of literary fragmentation to represent personal or collective trauma and to address ethical concerns. They also investigate the ways in which the architecture of the printed book is destabilised and how aesthetic processes involving fragmentation, bricolage and/or collage raise ontological, ethical and epistemological questions about the globalised contemporary world we live in and its relation to the self and the other. Besides the aforementioned authors, the volume makes reference to the works of J. G. Ballard, Julian Barnes, Mark Z. Danielewski, David Markson, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Foster Wallace, Jeanette Winterson and several others.
List of figures
Introduction: the art of the fragment
Vanessa Guignery, École Normale Supérieure in Lyon
Wojciech Drąg, University of Wrocław
Forms of fragmentation: past and present
Chapter 1 What is fragmentary fiction?
Merritt Moseley, University of North Carolina at Asheville
Chapter 2 Fragmentary writing and polyphonic narratives in twenty-first-century fiction
Mariano D’Ambrosio, University Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle
Chapter 3 The short story: fragment and augment
David Malcolm, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw
The fragment and the whole
Chapter 4 The architectural fragment: ruins and totality in J. G. Ballard’s fiction
Marcin Tereszewski, University of Wrocław
Chapter 5 Fragmentary transtextuality: David Mitchell and his novel
Gerd Bayer, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Chapter 6 Fragmentary writing and globalization in Ali Smith’s Hotel World
Alicia J. Rouverol, University of Manchester
Chapter 7 Lives, etc.: fragments of lives in short stories by Julian Barnes
Teresa Bruś, University of Wrocław
Chapter 8 “Make it new” to return as rupture and difference: a study of Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time
Maria Antonietta Struzziero
Fragmentation in the age of crisis
Chapter 9 Collage manifestos: fragmentation and appropriation in David Markson’s This is Not a Novel and David Shields’s Reality Hunger
Wojciech Drąg, University of Wrocław
Chapter 10 Fragmentation in David Foster Wallace’s fiction
Jarosław Hetman, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń
Chapter 11 Trauma and the mechanics of fragmentation in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Caroline Magnin, Sorbonne Université
Multimodal and multimedial fragments
Chapter 12 Singularity, multimodality, transmediality: fragmentary future(s) of the novel?
Grzegorz Maziarczyk, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Chapter 13 From Wunderkammer fragmentation to alternative history in Hexen 2.0 by Suzanne Treister
Zofia Kolbuszewska, University of Wrocław
Chapter 14 Unbox the story: a look at contemporary shuffle narratives
Chapter 15 Fragmentation as building practice: the literary and musical collaboration between Thomas Ligotti and Current 93 for In a Foreign Town, in a Foreign Land
Deborah Bridle, University of Côte d’Azur
Chapter 16 Fragments of a postscript
Alison Gibbons, Sheffield Hallam University
Vanessa Guignery is Professor of Contemporary English and Postcolonial Literature at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon. She published The Fiction of Julian Barnes (2006) and Conversations with Julian Barnes (co-edited with Ryan Roberts, 2009). She is the author of Seeing and Being: Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (2012) as well as monographs on B.S. Johnson (2009) and Jonathan Coe (2015). She is the editor of several books on contemporary literature in English, including a collection of interviews with eight contemporary writers, Novelists in the New Millennium (2012) and The B.S. Johnson – Zulfikar Ghose Correspondence (2015).
Wojciech Drąg is Assistant Professor at the Institute of English Studies, University of Wrocław. He is the author of Revisiting Loss: Memory, Trauma and Nostalgia in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro (2014) and co-editor of War and Words: Representations of Military Conflict in Literature and the Media (2015) and Spectrum of Emotions: From Love to Grief (2016). In 2018, he received The Kosciuszko Foundation fellowship at the University of Utah.
fragmentary writing, modernism, postmodernism, braid, bricolage, mosaic, Zeitgeist, collage, montage, heteroglossia, multiplicity, polyphonic novel, liberature, typographical experimentation, metafiction, appropriation, shuffle narratives, multimodality, multimediality, short story, novel, deconstruction, transtextuality, uncreative writing