Fictions of the Not Yet

Wednesday 9 November, 1.15pm – 2.30pm
Room 359, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster

Caroline Edwards (University of Lincoln)
‘Fictions of the Not Yet’

As the first decade of the twenty-first century comes to a close, there is a growing critical awareness of the current fascination with alternative and future worlds in contemporary British fiction. In addition to the continuing popularity of – and growing scholarly interest in – speculative and genre works, an emerging body of “literary” fictions is revealing a wide-ranging preoccupation with narratives of apocalypse, transmigration and haunting. Writers like David Mitchell, Jeanette Winterson, Jim Crace, John Burnside, Marina Warner, Maggie Gee, Jon McGregor and Sam Taylor are thus shifting the parameters of realist literary fiction and its generic borrowings, and in the process articulating a shared concern with the question of temporality. We need to develop a new strategy of reading such fictions in order to examine the formal innovations executed by these visions of temporal alterity and futurity. This paper will outline a refunctioning of Ernst Bloch’s category of the “Not Yet” (Noch Nicht) in order to provide a methodological framework that can draw out the distinctly utopian implications that are prevalent in the contemporary British novel. This refunctioning not only reconsiders the relationship between philosophical discourse and narrative imaginaries, but also helps us outline the distinctive structural, thematic and stylistic characteristics shaping an emerging caucus of fictions.

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