The Maximalist Novel: From Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow to Roberto Bolano's 2666

The Maximalist Novel: From Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow to Roberto Bolano's 2666

by Stefano Ercolino


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The Maximalist Novel sets out to define a new genre of contemporary fiction. It is an aesthetically hybrid genre, which developed in the United States from the early 1970s, and then gained popularity in Europe in the early twenty-first century. Ercolino's aim is to stake out a new conceptual territory, which will contribute to a re-shaping of both the traditional view of postmodern literature and the understanding of the development of the novel in the second half of the twentieth century.

The maximalist novel has a very strong symbolic and morphological identity. Ercolino sets out ten particular elements which define and structure it as a complex literary form: length, an encyclopedic mode, dissonant chorality, diegetic exuberance, completeness, narrratorial omniscience, paranoid imagination, inter-semiocity, ethical commitment, and hybrid realism. These ten characteristics are common to all of the seven works upon which the hypothesis of the maximalist novel is based: Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, Underworld by Don DeLillo, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, and 2005 dopo Cristo by the Babette Factory.

Though the ten features are not all present in the same way or form in every single text, they are all decisive in defining the genre of the maximalist novel, insofar as they are systematically co-present. Taken singularly, they can be easily found both in modernist and postmodern novels, which are not maximalist. Nevertheless, it is precisely their co-presence, as well as their reciprocal articulation, which make them fundamental in demarcating the maximalist novel as a genre.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623562915
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date: 06/19/2014
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.70(w) x 9.28(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Stefano Ercolino is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. A former Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University, he is the author of The Novel-Essay, 1884-1947 (forthcoming).

Table of Contents

Table of Figures

Introduction: The Maximalist Novel

Part One

1. Length
2. Encyclopedic Mode
3. Dissonant Chorality
4. Diegetic Exuberance
5. Completeness
6. Narratorial Omniscience
7. Paranoid Imagination

Part Two
8. Inter-semiocity9. Ethical Commitment
10. Hybrid Realism


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