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The Quiet Contemporary American Novel$
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Rachel Sykes

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526108876

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526108876.001.0001

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The quiet novel

The quiet novel

(p.14) 1 The quiet novel
The Quiet Contemporary American Novel

Rachel Sykes

Manchester University Press

This chapter maps the neglected history of quiet fictions and speculates about the potentiality of quiet as a literary aesthetic. It argues that the introvert was a disruptive presence in many nineteenth-century American texts, including those by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville where quiet is associated with a failure to speak or an absence of mind. In the early twentieth century, quiet protagonists were integral to the ‘novel of consciousness’ favoured by many writers including Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust who equated quietness of character with a rich and dramatic internal life. Yet, as the century developed, quiet became marginalised within a Western culture that seemed increasingly defined by its noise and sources of overstimulation. This chapter therefore concludes with a discussion of quiet’s potentiality as both an aesthetic and as a mode of engagement with contemporary fiction.

Keywords:   Quiet, The quiet novel, The introvert, Review culture, Nineteenth-century literature, Modernism, Postmodernism

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