The Argument about Things in the 1980s: Goods and Garbage in an Age of Neoliberalism


Product Details

West Virginia University Press
Publish Date
5.9 X 0.6 X 8.9 inches | 0.7 pounds
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About the Author

Tim Jelfs is assistant professor of American studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He has previously published work on American literature and culture in the Journal of American Studies and Comparative American Studies.


"This is a superb book--sharply argued, theoretically astute, richly researched, and beautifully written. I think it will make a real contribution to the study of American literature and culture, contemporary fiction, and potentially to emergent fields that are challenging entrenched ways of understanding materiality. I can easily imagine this book being taught in graduate seminars and think it will gain a readership among students and scholars of US culture."
--Stephanie Foote, editor of Histories of the Dustheap: Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice

"Quite brilliantly, and most entertainingly, Tim Jelfs's new book troubles at and unpicks the ways in which things and an argument about things is conducted across a range of different American fiction written in the 1980s. The book develops a crucially important argument that masterfully demonstrates the importance of the 80s in determining our understandings of contemporary America. It also complicates, significantly and importantly, our appreciation of how neoliberalism inflects older versions of American materialism. Fiction, the book argues, attends to things, everyday objects especially, so as to deliver new ways of reading America and its culture in fascinating aesthetic, political and philosophical ways. As intelligent as it is beautifully written, Jelfs's book will significantly shape debates about materiality in America."
Nick Selby, Professor of American Literature, Editor of Comparative American Studies, University of East Anglia
"Anyone tired of the usual 'Age of Reagan, ' rise-of-the-right narratives that have for too long defined our understanding of the period after the Sixties will be grateful for Tim Jelfs's intervention in The Argument about Things in the 1980s. Jelfs takes up the 'long 1980s' by drawing upon an astonishing range of literature, music, and visual art, and he forces us to consider the period not as defined merely by Reagan and neoliberalism, but by the material things present in American culture at the start of our present neoliberal age. It is an incredibly important distinction, and every page bristles with fresh insight."
Michael Stewart Foley, author of Front Porch Politics: The Forgotten Heyday of American Activism in the 1970s and 1980s