Thesis title: The Vatic Mode: Literary Allusion and Imagining the Future in the Contemporary Novel
Supervisor: Professor Peter Boxall
My research focuses on the novel's response to a crisis of imagination in the twenty-first century. If the novel has previously been seen, among literary forms, as possessing a particular capacity for the futural, in the twenty-first century, the notion that any aesthetic form might be especially orientated to the future has become infamously vexed.
I identify literary allusion as an old technique used by a range of contemporary novelists in an innovative way. In this mode, allusion to other texts can re-situate us in textual traditions with which we have lost meaningful contact, and thus grant us a language of shared intertexts, with which we might articulate our speculations, predictions and dreams of the future. I call such allusion ‘vatic’, or prophetic, a term repurposed from poetry criticism. My doctoral thesis tracks permutations of the vatic across a transatlantic range of novelists, including Claire-Louise Bennett, Ben Lerner, David Mitchell, Colson Whitehead and Ali Smith.