Millenial Fiction and the Emergence of Posthuman Cosmopolitanism

Fitzgerald, Andrew. Millenial Fiction and the Emergence of Posthuman Cosmopolitanism. 2011. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

Since the mid 1990s a "new wave" of writers has, in the words of Michiko Kakutani, begun "reinventing" American literature. Though Kakutani evokes a larger group than the circle of writers known collectively as "Millennials," it is the literary production of this group in particular that sets the challenges and opportunities of early twenty-first century social life in the sharpest contrast. This dissertation provides a contextual reading of several Millennial texts which takes into account two of the most globally significant factors immanent to the turn of the twenty-first century: the precipitous rise of transnational capital and the unprecedented expansion of network technologies. From this vantage point, we can begin to theorize the emergence of a new formation in the literary imagination, one which differentiates millennial literature from its postmodern antecedent: posthuman cosmopolitanism.

In order to elaborate this formation and draw attention to the critical insight it offers, I will first situate "millennial" literature and my critical approach to it in an introductory chapter. I will then dedicate one chapter each to three key millennial texts: Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections , Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close , and Dave Eggers's You Shall Know Our Velocity! These focused readings will explore how the texts in question account for and process global economics in the era of the transnational corporation and the technosocial developments incumbent in always-on electronic networks. In a final chapter, I will outline in concrete terms the characteristics of posthuman cosmopolitanism as it presents itself in these readings then offer examples of how this formulation might be used to read other literary texts in a way which takes into account the particular influences and concerns of the millennial period. The goal of this project is to press on the assumptions and innovations of the late 1990s and early 2000s and to attempt to theorize the ways in which millennial texts not only are influenced by, but also may themselves exert influence on the very specific set of historical circumstances that characterize the turn of the twenty-first century.

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