The New Sincerity of Inauthentic Poetry in Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station and Nicolson Baker's The Anthologist

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

    Abstract

    Why is contemporary culture repeatedly offering escapism founded on depictions of mediocre and inauthentic selves? This paper draws on portrayals of mediocre and ‘failed’ writer protagonists from 21st century fiction, in particular At the Atocha Station (2011) by Ben Lerner, to re-evaluate the legacy and reconfiguration of David Foster Wallace’s conception of sincerity.
    Lerner’s novel is contextualised within ‘reconstructive literature’ where authenticity is re-enacted metareferentially. Sincerity moves from a Wordworthian ‘over flow’ of feeling, to Byronic attitudes where sincerity is code for convention.
    The Bildungsroman’s maturing artistry moves towards tragi-comic depictions of failed authenticity. An Anti-Künstlerroman (anti-artist’s novel) emerges where protaganists lament attaining original, expressive status. This paper questions why contemporary culture is drawn to this narrative arc, collapsing into reflexive poets who can’t find their ‘true’ voice. This model of writer as uncomfortable ‘fake’: “there was nothing particularly original about my poems” complicates Wallace’s ideal of literary writing as negative critique and positive affirmation in the face of a “tyranny of ironic watching,” an increasingly dominant element of a social formation mediated by technological interaction.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2018
    EventThe British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies Biennial Conference 2018: What Happens Now - Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
    Duration: 10 Jul 201812 Jul 2018

    Conference

    ConferenceThe British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies Biennial Conference 2018
    CountryUnited Kingdom
    CityLoughborough
    Period10/07/1812/07/18

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