How contemporary novels use narrative time to counter cultural homogenization and historical flattening.
In From Empire to Anthropocene, Betty Joseph celebrates how contemporary fiction contributes to a novel framing of world literature by playing with our understanding of time. Bringing together an unusual constellation of writers—including Jamaica Kincaid, Teju Cole, Hari Kunzru, and Barbara Kingsolver—Joseph traces how the novelistic interplay of concrete and abstract temporalities offers a new theory of critical globality.
Joseph examines time in contemporary life through five conceptual metaphors that have captivated literary, critical, and cultural studies: specters, attachments, networks, markets, and assemblages. Joseph demonstrates how these terms are embedded with their own temporal structures and linguistic complexity. She develops a mode of reading that she calls "conceptual-metaphorical performances," which embody the writers' complex chronopolitical commitments and their refusal to concede to the political paralysis implied in the synchronous and flattened world-time of globality. Time, rather than space, is the axis along which contemporary fiction challenges us to imagine forms of coexistence and social collectivity under the precarious conditions of global capitalism and environmental damage.
From Empire to Anthropocene convincingly dispels the notion that so-called English-language "world literature" precludes the possibility of historical analysis and social collectivity. Bringing postcolonialism and Marxist theory into conversation with critical global and ecological perspectives, this book paves the way for a new literary theorization of contemporary Anglophone literature and contributes a fresh perspective to the field of cultural studies.