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Nowhere If Not Here : the ethics of queer experimentation in the global novel form


This dissertation analyzes a selection of novels by four postcolonial authors, Ama Ata Aidoo, Arundhati Roy, Shani Mootoo, and Zadie Smith, and theorizes "queering" as an ethical literary procedure in which experimentation with narrative form challenges the norms of narrative that uphold heteronormative and liberal individualist models of the human. Each author's experimental engagement with the novel form effects a transformation in the form and function of the novel itself, thus reinventing the ethical potential of the novel and revising understandings of the human. In these novels, the literary practice of queering challenges the norms of narrative realism, including its limited construction of the human as the heteronormative liberal individual subject, so as to articulate an ethical stance in narrative and reinvent the form of the global novel in English in the contemporary world. Contextualizing my theoretical approach with recent work in postcolonial studies, this dissertation engages in current debates about the purpose and aims of postcolonial literary studies in the contemporary, globalized world. Drawing upon the work of Dipesh Chakrabarty, Gayatri Spivak, Aamir Mufti, Paul Jay, Sankaran Krishna, and Sanjay Krishnan, as well as Martha Nussbaum and Nancy Armstrong, this study argues for the value and significance of the ethical potential of the literary. My intervention suggests that queer experimental practice in narrative challenges normative ways of understanding and being in the world, including the values upheld by narratives of globalization, consumer capitalism, progress, and development. While the novel has, since the eighteenth century, been one of the primary forms for consolidating the liberal individual subject as the dominant model of the human, the novels in this study imagine the human as inherently interconnected, a shift in understanding that aligns with the current planetary realities of climate change. In light of planetary shifts caused by global warming, the science of climate change, and the recognition of human beings as a geological force, the ethics of queer experimentation in the global novel form offers a site in which to imagine the human otherwise--as planetary, futural, and connected

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