Critical Modesty in Contemporary Fiction

ISBN : 9780192893321

Thom Dancer
224 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Sep 2021
Send mail

From climate catastrophe to pandemics and economic crises, the problems facing humanity are dizzyingly complex and increasingly planetary in scale. Critical Modesty in Contemporary Fiction argues for contemporary fiction's capacity to help those who may feel despair at the enormity of such problems-not, as one might think, through the ambitious search for grand solutions, but rather by inculcating a temperament of modesty. This new temperament of critical modesty locates the fight for freedom and human dignity within the limited and compromised conditions in which we find ourselves. Through readings of Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith, J. M. Coetzee, and David Mitchell, this volume shows how contemporary works of literature model modesty as a critical temperament. Exploring modest forms of entangled human agency that represent an alternative to the novel of the large scale that have been most closely associated with the Anthropocene, it makes the surprising, yet compelling, case that precisely by adopting a modest stance, the novel actually has the potential to play a more important socio-cultural role. In doing so, the book offers an engaging response to the debate over critical and surface readings, bringing novels into the conversation and arguing for a fictional mode that is both critical and modest, reminding us how much we are already engaged with the world, implicated and compromised, before we start developing theories, writing stories, or acting within it.


Introduction to Critical Modesty
1 Modesty in the Anthropocene
Part 1. Modest Temperaments
2 Ian McEwan's Redescriptions
3 Zadie Smith's Partnerships
Part 2. Modest Practices
4 J. M. Coetzee's Weakness
5 David Mitchell's Inefficiency

About the author: 

Thom Dancer works at the University of Toronto where he studies and teaches contemporary fiction, the history of literary criticism, and novel theory.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.