The City as Performance

The Contemporary American Novel and the Power of the Senses



Throughout literary history the city has taken on many different shapes and forms: from functioning as evocative setting or powerful metaphor to playing the role of a fictional character to presenting itself as a complex text in need of decoding. Continuing this versatile history, the novels discussed in this study represent recent attempts in American literature to once again reimagine the city.

Based on close readings of several works published between 1997 and 2011, this volume sheds light on strategies employed in contemporary American literature to reaffirm the city as a lived, creative space: Shaped by the inhabitants who in their movements through the fictional urban environment artistically perform their own versions of the metropolis, the cities narrated in these novels celebrate the power of the urban individual. Most of all, they speak to the importance of the senses as a constitutive force in writing and experiencing urban space.