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Durham e-Theses
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The View from Somewhere: Ambivalence in The Fiction
of Jonathan Franzen and Amitav Ghosh

CHOU, MEGUMI,GRACE (2019) The View from Somewhere: Ambivalence in The Fiction
of Jonathan Franzen and Amitav Ghosh.
Unspecified thesis, Durham University.



This thesis seeks to understand experiential ambivalence in the later works of American novelist Jonathan Franzen (1959-) and Indian writer of English Amitav Ghosh (1956-). Both authors note that there is an uncertainty and resistance inherent to our experience of the world, as rooted in contested notions of the past. In Franzen’s The Corrections (2000), Freedom (2013), and Purity (2016), a disturbing picture of an America at the mercy of financial markets, rampant surveillance technology, and cultural trauma caused by 9/11 emerges. In Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide (2004) and the Ibis Trilogy (the final volume
published in 2016), we also find individuals reaching for an authentic cultural memory only to find such memory imbued with the experience of the British Empire, which often works
actively against India’s attempts at self-understanding and self-identity. Following the tenets that Peter Boxall has set out in his Critical Introduction to Twenty-First Century Fiction, I suggest that the first decades of the new millennium are unmoored from, yet still haunted by,
the recent past. Experience and ideas become unsettled, rendering them transient and newly
dependent upon liquid definitions of power, to borrow a term from Zygmunt Bauman. While
the novels of Franzen and Ghosh address different aspects of contemporary existence and approach the implications of these issues from diametric positions, it is, I contest, a deliberate
and positive mode of ambivalence which places these two authors and their writings in conversation with one another. Such modes of ambivalence find expression within intimate spheres of the individual subject (through revised notions of self and society), the self as a function of family, and those anxieties that impinge on individual liberty and, finally, that
systemic institutions of knowledge that promote more flexible thinking about, and towards, the future.

Item Type:Thesis (Unspecified)
Keywords:Ambivalence, Identity, Postcolonialism, American Literature, Minority Literature
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 Jun 2020 12:01

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