Contemporary Women Writers Look Back: From Irony to Nostalgia

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Long before John Barth announced in his famous 1967 essay that late twentieth-century fiction was 'The Literature of Exhaustion,' authors have been retelling and recycling stories. Barth was, however, right to identify in postmodern fiction a particular self-consciousness about its belatedness at the end of a long literary tradition. This book traces the move in contemporary women's writing from the self-conscious, ironic parodies of postmodernism to the nostalgic and historical turn of the twenty-first century. It analyses how contemporary women writers deal with their literary inheritances, offering an illuminating and provocative study of contemporary women writers' re-writings of previous texts and stories. Through close readings of novels by key contemporary women writers including Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Emma Tennant and Helen Fielding, and of the ITV adaptation, Lost in Austen, Alice Ridout examines the politics of parody and nostalgia, exploring the limitations and possibilities of both in the contexts of feminism and postcolonialism.