Accessibility navigation

‘Getting constructively lost:’ narratives of escapism in contemporary American fiction

Ravasi, M. (2020) ‘Getting constructively lost:’ narratives of escapism in contemporary American fiction. PhD thesis, University of Reading

Text - Thesis
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.

[img] Text - Thesis Deposit Form
· Restricted to Repository staff only


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00094861


The subject of this thesis is self-conscious escapism in a selection of contemporary American novels, chief among them works by Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, Thomas Pynchon, Junot Diaz and Jennifer Egan. I explore the ways in which these texts interrogate the consequences of the act of escape into fictional worlds, exposing its dangers - among them social isolation and ontological confusion about one's relation to the written or unwritten world - while also considering its benefits, including relief from trauma, a sense of communal belonging, and insight into historical and social phenomena. Challenging established assumptions about escapism and escapist fiction, I argue that the core texts of this thesis represent escapism as an aesthetically legitimate pursuit, with complex philosophical and political implications. The thesis' first chapter offers close readings of these core texts' staging of escapism as an alternately redemptive and damning pursuit. It also situates the text's reevaluation of escapist fiction within broader discussions on the cultural and aesthetic value of popular narratives. The second chapter reflects on the significance of these texts' reliance on an explicit form of intertextuality, central to their conception of literary influence, and to the way they represent popular fiction as a source of communal belonging with the potential to transcend barriers of ethnicity and social status. Finally, the third chapter focuses on a narrative strategy I define as genenc contagion, by means of which many of my core texts represent the process by which characters become so addicted to fiction they are no longer able to distinguish it from reality. I conclude by situating my core texts m the broader contemporary landscape, arguing that their exploration of the dynamics of escapism casts new light on and deepens our understanding of the function and the implications of our engagement with fiction.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Brauner, D.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature and Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:94861
Date on Title Page:2019


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation