WiSe 18/19: Imaginary Homelands? Michael Chabon’s Historical Fantasies and the Legacy of Postmodernism
The Jewish-American author Michael Chabon has become famous for his defense of “genre fiction” and of literature’s capacity to provide imaginary escapes from empirical and historical realities. In ... read more
The Jewish-American author Michael Chabon has become famous for his defense of “genre fiction” and of literature’s capacity to provide imaginary escapes from empirical and historical realities. In his writing since the year 2000, Chabon has implemented generic signifiers of a number of popular genres (including fantasy, superhero comics, sci fi, detective fiction, and even children’s literature).
Chabon’s work has served as a showcase for two major turns that have supposedly taken place in American culture over the last decade. On the one hand, his interest in narrative pleasure has been read as signaling the end of the postmodern epoch of deconstructive irony and the beginning of a “reconstructive” period in American literature. What is more, it has been argued that by emphasizing fantasy and wish fulfillment over traumatic memory, Chabon’s writing partakes in a wider Utopian project of “postrace aesthetics” launched at the beginning of the 21st century by a new generation of American minority writers.
In this seminar, we will read and discuss a variety of Chabon’s “genre fictions,” such as his counterfactual novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, his comic novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, and his detective story The Final Solution. On the basis of our readings, we will critically examine the usefulness of analytical frameworks such as “post-postmodernism” and “postrace aesthetics.” Our engagement with these discourses surrounding Chabon’s work will also provide an excellent occasion for a reconsideration of key theoretical texts on postmodernism and postmodern historiography.