From nostalgia to catastrophe: Genre, retro-culture, and the British and American fictions of neoliberalis
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This dissertation examines the role genre plays in making sense of the damage caused by neoliberalization. More specifically, From Nostalgia to Catastrophe examines recent British and American writers who embrace and rework established narrative forms in their depictions of this mostly under-recognized history of violence. The title, then, refers to a field of fictions (or, narratives) regarding neoliberalism's history and impact, with nostalgia and catastrophe as the extreme edges of that field. These terms, moreover, identify the stumbling blocks and absolutist tendencies within current critical and cultural confrontations with this history. In fact, this project contends that nostalgia and catastrophism are the two conclusions neoliberal ideology compels us to adopt. But against the desire for a literature that can straightforwardly mimic the brutality of today's economic order, this dissertation concludes that these tendencies need not be indulged but must necessarily be worked through so as to achieve an understanding beyond this particular horizon of thought. All three chapters presume, then, that some degree of wrestling with the recent past is an essential precondition for understanding the neoliberal present. But be it David Peace's serialized noir account of 1970s and '80s Yorkshire, the weird origins of China Miéville's London analog, Beszel/Ul Qoma, or Rachel Kushner's reconstructed heyday of downtown art and stagflation era radicalism, these literary look backs have not abandoned futurity. Rather, in these respective reconstructions we can see that genre itself has a future, a future not wholly bound to its past, and if we are to imagine a better world, we mustn't jettison the old models but remake them in ways that may offer us an alternative.