Remonstrative Tone: Transnational Narration in US Novels
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CitationFehrenbacher, Dena. 2019. Remonstrative Tone: Transnational Narration in US Novels. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractRemonstrative Tone gives a theory of personal, written tone by showing how tone has been used in 20th and 21st century ethnic and transnational American novels. Because the elusive written cues we call “tone” are read within and against readers’ social expectations, personal tone becomes particularly important in navigating intersubjective social difference. This project argues that personal tone is either “generative,” used to invite identification and sympathy, or “remonstrative,” used to antagonize readerly inclinations to identify. I show how in valuing “voice,” postwar American culture often really valued a set of self-assertive, self-possessed tones normative to the novel, meant to invite sympathetic identification and linked with American liberal individualism. Beginning with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, I show how Ellison’s use of “generative” tone became the dominant strategy of 20th century ethnic literature. Then, I show how contemporary transnational novels by Jamaica Kincaid, Junot Diaz, and Teju Cole take up an alternate model, a model found in Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. By using tone in a “remonstrative” manner, these contemporary novels exaggerate the normative tones of novelistic discourse, and thus lampoon the self-narrating tones and postures of liberal individualism to which ethnically-marked subjects are expected to conform. Through articulating this unacknowledged literary history, this project shows how personal tone is both more politically conditioned than the New Critics may have thought, but more useful as a concept than Affect Studies generally gives it credit for.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029673
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