Escaping the split-level trap: postsuburban narratives in recent American fiction

Foster, Tim (2012) Escaping the split-level trap: postsuburban narratives in recent American fiction. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

My PhD engages with a number of recent works of fiction in order to understand how American literature has commented on the emergence of a postsuburban environment – that is to say a cosmopolitan landscape in which the previous city/suburb binary is no longer evident. Whilst the term 'postsuburban' is resistant to easy categorisation, I use it as a mode of enquiry both to reassess what fiction has to tell literary criticism about the foundational concept of suburbia, as well as to assess contemporary writing free from the assumptions of an inherited suburban imaginary. It is my thesis that these postsuburban environments are seen by the writers who set their fictions there as places that are far more than white middle-class dystopias, and that it is a fallacy to attribute to them, as certain literary critics do, the negative cultural clichés associated with postwar suburban fictions.

After offering revisionist readings of Sloan Wilson's The Man in the The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955) and Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road (1961), I consider Richard Ford's trilogy The Sportswriter (1986), Independence Day (1995), and The Lay of the Land (2006) as a representation of a classic postwar suburb that has been overtaken by development and sprawl. I focus next on T. C. Boyle's The The Tortilla Curtain Curtain (1995), and Junot Diaz's Drown (1996), which both suggest the postsuburban landscape as a place of cross-cultural exchange and re-invention. An analysis of Douglas Coupland's Microserfs (1995) follows and proposes that the physical postsuburban spaces of innovation that exist in Silicon Valley, the novel's setting, are paralleled by the changing virtual spaces of the Internet. Lastly, I explore The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) by Dinaw Mengestu, and Richard Price's Lush Life (2008), two novels that deal with one of the corollaries of the breakdown of the city/suburb binary and the emergence of a postsuburban environment: inner-city gentrification.

An earlier version of chapter 4 was published as, Tim Foster, “‘A kingdom of a thousand princes but no kings’: The Postsuburban Network in Douglas Coupland's Microserfs,” Western American Literature 46:3 (2011).

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Thompson, G.W.
Hutchison, A.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
ID Code:2636
Deposited By:Dr Tim Foster
Deposited On:19 Sep 2012 13:59
Last Modified:19 Sep 2012 13:59

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