California and the Melancholic American Identity in Joan Didion’s Novels: Exiled from Eden

1st Edition

Katarzyna Nowak McNeice

Routledge
December 21, 2018 Forthcoming
Reference - 224 Pages
ISBN 9781138370418 - CAT# K397281
Series: Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory

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Summary

California and the Melancholic American Identity in Joan Didion’s Novels: Exiled from Eden focuses on the concept of Californian identity in the fiction of Joan Didion. This identity is understood as melancholic, in the sense that the critics following the tradition of both Sigmund Freud and Walter Benjamin use the word. The book traces the progress of the way Californian identity is portrayed in Joan Didion’s novels, starting with the first two in which California plays the central role, Run River and Play It As It Lays, through A Book of Common Prayer to Democracy and The Last Thing He Wanted, where California functions only as a distant point of reference, receding to the background of Didion’s interests. Curiously enough, Didion presents Californian history as a history of white settlement, disregarding whole chapters of the history of the region in which the Californios and Native Americans, among other groups, played a crucial role: it is this reticence that the monograph sees as the main problem of Didion’s fiction and presents it as the silent center of gravity in Didion’s oeuvre. The monograph proposes to see the melancholy expressed by Didion’s fiction organized into four losses: of Nature, History, Ethics, and Language; around which the main analytical chapters are constructed. What remains unrepresented and silenced comes back to haunt Didion’s fiction, and it results in a melancholic portrayal of California and its identity – which is the central theme this monograph addresses.

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