American Epic Novel in the Late Twentieth Century

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Awarded the Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship
This study undertakes close readings of four different epic novels of the 1970s: James A. Michener’s Centennial (1974), Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song (1979), Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), and Samuel R. Delany Dhalgren (1975). In these, the author examines the possibilities and pitfalls of the genre and its way of grappling in complex ways with the idea and reality of an American empire.


"If this book is a welcome, overdue presentation of major contemporary world-fictions, it is also the first critical work to comprehend what the American novel after Empire has become.” - Dr. Joseph Tabbi, Professor of Contemporary Literature, Technology and Literature, The University of Illinois at Chicago

“W. Gilbert Adair has produced a timely and well-written monograph on the crucial role that the epic imagination has played in contemporary novelists’ immanent critique of U.S. imperialism. ... Overall, the study will become required supplemental reading in undergraduate courses and graduate seminars on the Contemporary American Novel.” - Dr. Donald Pease, Avalon Professor in the Humanities, Chair of the Master of Arts in the Liberal Studies Program, Dartmouth College

"Adair’s control of his central themes is strong, perceptive, and in his close readings, often dazzlings. ... The effect is a brilliant illumination of contemporary American culture that embraces many fields.” - Dr. Clive Bush, Emeritus Professor, King’s College, University of London

Table of Contents

Foreword by Joseph Tabbi
1 Epic and History: Michener
2 Epic and Law: Mailer
3 Epic and War Machine: Pynchon
4 Epic and Margin: Delany
5 Epics on the Verge of an Empire

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