Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age

Product Details
Columbia University Press
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.0 X 0.88 inches | 1.46 pounds

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About the Author
Timothy Bewes is professor of English at Brown University. His books include The Event of Postcolonial Shame (2011); Reification, or The Anxiety of Late Capitalism (2002); and Cynicism and Postmodernity (1997).

This unapologetically polemical book is disturbing in the very best of ways, including the radical ideological optimism of its claims for the novel's anti-formalist fugitivity. Tracking a historical mutation in the nature of contemporary fiction with eye-opening consequences for literary theory and beyond, Bewes has once again written a brilliant and utterly unforgettable book. Free Indirect is one of the boldest works of criticism I've encountered in decades. The study of the novel cannot be the same after its intervention.

--Sianne Ngai, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English, University of Chicago
Free Indirect is the first work of literary theory to make sense of the contemporary novel and its maddening relationship to fiction. With patience and a great deal of wit, Bewes dispenses with the red herrings of novel theory--form, connection, subjectivity--to unveil how the novel thinks, and how its thinking hollows out the spurious distinction between fiction and nonfiction. This is a brilliant, brave, and exceptionally unsettling book for how it guides its readers to the outer limits of what criticism can say or do, and leaves them there, in the realm of pure thought.--Merve Emre, University of Oxford and contributing writer at the New Yorker

Can a single book tell us about the life of the novel after the death of the novel, after the end of theory, and after the eclipse of literary institutions? Yes. Bewes shrinks from nothing in reading contemporary fiction outside all traditional approaches. A true work of novel theory and a bracing challenge to literary-critical orthodoxy.

--Jed Esty, Vartan Gregorian Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
Summoning the work of a range of contemporary authors, from W. G. Sebald to Zadie Smith, Rachel Cusk, and Jesse Ball, Free Indirect constructs a remarkable theory of the contemporary novel, arguing that it thinks differently from how it represents thinking and in so doing both enacts and articulates a novel way for thought to relate to the body, language, and the environment. In Bewes' powerful readings, the contemporary novel is interested less in the traditional categories of character, plot, or narrative, than in unbinding thought from them in order to release it into the unformed and the obscure; it thus transcends the realm of the aesthetic, and instructs us in new possibilities for thinking in the twenty-first century. No conversation about the contemporary novel will henceforth be possible without approaching Free Indirect.--Branka Arsic, Charles and Lynn Zhang Professor, Columbia University
Free Indirect is a provocation in the best sense of that word.--Jesse van Amelsvoort "The European Legacy: Towards New Paradigms"
A must-read critique of the connections between thought and form in contemporary fiction.--Adam Dalva "The Millions"
Bewes teaches us how to read novelistically, where the lines between insight and experiment are blurred. As Bewes shows, pushing these limits is what keeps thought alive, and perhaps, free.--Athanassia Williamson "Critical Inquiry"
Bewes has produced a work for the ages--an intervention in critical theory that will forever change the way we read fiction.--Jennie Hann "National Book Critics Circle"
For scholars working on the twenty-first century this is an invaluable text for its examinations of perspective, discourse, thought, and genre. . . As critics and readers continue to parse its relevancy amidst so many competing genres, Bewes's work reminds us of the novel's inherent ability to transform and provoke.--Emily Hall "Studies in 20th & 21st Century Literature"
In tracing the autonomisation of thought from thinker, Bewes makes significant headway not only in conceptualising the contemporary novel, but also in identifying the theoretical problems that have made that task so difficult.--Carson Welch "Radical Philosophy"
[This] study seeks to overturn pretty much everything that has ever been thought and said about the novel. By its lights, a great deal of what counts as ordinary novel criticism, even very good criticism, looks unenlightened and, what's worse, dreary. . . [Free Indirect]'s ambition is dazzling, as is its sentence-by-sentence intelligence.--Bruce Robbins "American Literary History"
Free Indirect upends modes of formal criticism and offers a bold view of contemporary literature and its study. This is a vital and important book for thinking about recent fiction, but also for reconsidering the practice of criticism in the present.--Georgia Walton "Textual Practice"
Remarkable and challenging.--Michael Lucey "Genre"
An illuminating work of novel theory that will stimulate and challenge the study of contemporary literature and of the novel alike.--David Wylot "Modern Philology"