Withdrawal: a reading of antisocial affect in contemporary fiction

Bridgewater, Thomas Angus (2021). Withdrawal: a reading of antisocial affect in contemporary fiction. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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This thesis identifies the aesthetics of antisocial emotion in four contemporary novels, Carol Shields’ Unless, Ali Smith’s There but for the, Anna Burns’ Milkman, and André Aciman’s Call My By Your Name. It argues that these works represent the antisocial body not as something radically negated, but as experiences of the unique affective category of emotional withdrawal. Where affect and emotion are conventionally understood as systems for disclosing information to oneself and to others for the establishment of social reciprocity and synchronisation, withdrawal renders the subject uncommunicative and emotionally inaccessible. Forsaking emotional catharsis as the principle means of narrative fulfilment, these novels decline the normative bias towards self-expression and social involvement characteristic of a twenty-first century world that has inherited the Enlightenment value of self-representation and has escalated medical and popular therapeutic cultures alongside a capitalist investment in professional networking and perpetual engagement. Withdrawal, instead, registers the social world as a mode of assembly and association that can no longer sustain the participation, membership, or belonging of the subject. The novels demonstrate a new perspective on affective life, lived by a cohort of characters who encounter their disparate worlds not as dynamic spaces of urgent activity but as protracted impasses of uncertainty about the fantasy of social connection.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Language and Linguistics
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11908


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