William Gaddis, “The Last of Something”

Critical Essays

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About the Book

For many years novelist William Gaddis, despite having won two National Book Critics Circle Awards and a MacArthur Foundation’s “genius award,” suffered from commercial and critical neglect. However, Gaddis has more recently experienced a resurgence in his popularity among both groups and is now considered one of the strongest American novelists. This collection of essays explores the interrelation between Gaddis’s writing and the culture that helped to engender it. The essays cover such topics as technique, genre, religion, art, economics, colonialism and the role played by Gaddis’s own travels through Europe and North Africa.

About the Author(s)

Crystal Alberts is an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota. She serves as the technical editor for the NEH–funded Elizabeth Barrett Browning Project and is a research associate for the Electronic Literature Organization.
Christopher Leise is an assistant professor of English at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
Birger Vanwesenbeeck is an English professor at SUNY Fredonia in Fredonia, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Crystal Alberts Christopher Leise and Birger Vanwesenbeeck
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 216
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4309-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v

Introduction      1

1. Mapping William Gaddis: The Man, The Recognitions, and His Time

(CRYSTAL ALBERTS)      9

2. The Kvetch, the Rant, and the Bitch

(WILLIAM H. GASS)      27

3. The Power of Babel: Art, Entropy, and Aporia in the Novels

(CHRISTOPHER LEISE)      35

4. Trying to Make Negative Things Do the Work of Positive Ones: Gaddis and Apophaticism

(CHRISTOPHER J. KNIGHT)      51

5. Failing Criticism: The Recognitions

(JOSEPH CONWAY)      69

6. Agape Agape: The Last Christian Novel(s)

(BIRGER VANWESENBEECK)      86

7. “A disciplined nostalgia”: Gaddis and the Modern Art Object

(LISA SIRAGANIAN)      101

8. The Recognitions and Carpenter’s Gothic: Gaddis’s Anti-Pauline Novels

(JOHN SOUTTER)      115

9. This Little Prodigy Went to Market: The Education of J R

(TIM CONLEY)      126

10. Fields Ripe for Harvest: Carpenter’s Gothic, Africa, and Avatars of Biopolitical Control

(MATHIEU DUPLAY)      143

11. After Gaddis: Data Storage and the Novel

(STEPHEN J. BURN)      160

Chapter Notes      171

Bibliography      193

About the Contributors      199

Index      201

Book Reviews & Awards

“This solid collection adds to the growing debate on Gaddis’s literary heritage…recommended”—Choice; “an enjoyable and essential book for Gaddis scholars”—Tate Publishing; “a significant contribution to Gaddis scholarship, the articulate and erudite essays in this collection chart the ways in which Gaddis’s novel systems engage with diverse disciplines, including religion, art, politics, philosophy, economics, geography, language, and literature. Taken as a whole, this anthology increases our understanding of the myriad traditions from which Gaddis’s fictions emerge and encourages readers to seriously consider the formidable influence of Gaddis’s innovative art.”—Trey Strecker, Ball State University