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By Emily Horton (auth.)

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Extra info for Contemporary Crisis Fictions: Affect and Ethics in the Modern British Novel

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Thus, in accordance with Michael Serres’ Introduction 25 understanding of contemporary science as offering an appeal to an unfolding ‘global network of communication’ (Harari and Bell, 1982, p. xxiv), so likewise I see McEwan’s writing as offering a deterritorised understanding of scientific and literary knowledge, which at once embraces new global technologies, appreciating how these might facilitate cross-cultural dialogue, but also recognises how they might sustain ties to imperial power. In this sense, McEwan’s writing (despite some critical readings to the contrary) can be seen to reject a simplistic Western empiricism and rationalism, instead looking forward to some more credible, multidimensional intellectual outlook.

This is both technically and ideologically important. 4 This is evident, conceivably, in the conciseness of McEwan’s writing, the everydayness of Swift’s, and understatedness of Ishiguro’s, all of which arguably avoids the more overt virtuosity of modernism, or so it has been argued. I would resist this argument, however, protesting that stylistic concerns remain integral to these fictions: certainly style is expressed in conciseness, everydayness, and understatedness. One other obvious exception, were I to include him among these writers, would be Amis, whose stylistic exuberance in many ways defines his writing.

In fact, this understanding is appropriate to some forms of narrative unreliability, such as Jonathan Swift’s parodic critique of British domestic policy in A Modest Proposal or Austen’s sarcastic imitation of Victorian etiquette in the form of Mr and Mrs Bennett. Indeed, it is also pertinent, I would argue, in relation to the work of Martin Amis, who repeatedly negotiates a satiric inflection in his writing (as I shall explore in more detail below). In all of these cases, the reader is authorised to look down on the speaker or narrator, to see herself, along with the implied author, as a moral arbiter, capable of a more critical judgement than that offered within the narrative.

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