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Transposed Fictions: Speculative Genre Intrusions and Border Crossing Narratives in Twenty-First Century Literature


In the 21st century, greater critical and popular attention is being paid to the ability of speculative fiction genres to represent geopolitical and socioeconomic realities, and in particular to provide new forms through which minoritized voices can reveal and resist oppressive structures of power. My dissertation examines novels in contemporary North American fiction that instantiate a new form of literature centered on outsider perspectives to the dominant middle-class American culture, through the transposition of speculative fiction elements into an otherwise mimetic real-world context that purposefully eschews the creation of fictional speculative settings, in order to reveal and resist the daily realities of economic inequality, resource exploitation, and racial exclusion in an increasingly globalized and technologically permeated world. I analyze the way the perspectives of minoritized and transnational subject positions, in combination with the intrusion of politically meaningful speculative phenomena, create an estranging effect that brings into relief the inequalities and exclusions that underpin market-driven neoliberalism and the privilege of wealthy nations in the global north. In my first chapter, I situate these novels, which I term transposed fictions, as successors of postmodern qualities represented in the works of Don DeLillo, whose concerns with the estranging conditions of the mundane, evinced most clearly within White Noise, provide a precursor to transposed fictions from an insider perspective. In my second chapter, I analyze M.G. Vassanji’s novel Nostalgia as a key example of a speculative intrusion within real-world contexts creating sociopolitical estrangement, in this case a Canada that offers both immortality technology and a troubled relationship with dehumanized nations in the global south excluded from access to resources. In chapter 3, I examine Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West as a further example of real-world contexts turned speculative through an irreal focus on transnational migration. In chapter 4, Colson Whitehead’s Zone One provides an outsider perspective on mundane American reality looking back on the hegemonic nation’s collapse. Finally, in chapter 5, I examine the immigration experience of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as an example of speculative intrusion providing the opportunity for expression and resistance to structures of exploitative political power.

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