Professor Abington’s book analyzes literary fiction from the past 20 years

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ABINGTON, Pa. — The latest book by Liliana Naydan, associate professor of English at Penn State Abington, analyzes mainstream literary fiction by authors writing about the United States from the Great Depression of 2000 to the start of the pandemic. “Flat-World Fiction: Digital Humanity in Early Twenty-First-Century America” ​​focuses on texts by Don DeLillo, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Joshua Ferris, Jonathan Safran Foer, Mohsin Hamid, Thomas Pynchon, Kristen Roupenian, Gary Shteyngart and Zadie Smith.

“I consider the problems and possibilities of digital devices and media that critics say threaten to eradicate the print culture of old media,” Naydan said. “This book is important because it puts the humanities in conversation with STEM in a way that complements digital humanities research. It also explores the politics of human relationships with digital devices and media, which transform identity human and the relationships we have with each other They also transform our relationships with phenomena such as history, capitalism and nationality.

Naydan traces the roots of “Flat World Fiction,” which was ranked as the #1 new release in 21st century literary criticism on Amazon.com, to his life experience as Xennial, the microgeneration between the Generation X and millennials who have lived in analog and digital time.

“I remember carrying quarters in my pockets to make calls from payphones, and I used to listen to our dial-up modem scream to jump online and ask Jeeves questions. In my lifetime, I’ve seen digital technology invade our lives largely due to the commercialization of the Internet in the 1990s, a formative decade for me. It’s been interesting to watch the relationship we have with screens develop,” she said.

Naydan’s book was also inspired by her work on Don DeLillo’s short story “Point Omega,” which she had discussed in her first monograph, “Rhetorics of Religion in American Fiction.”

“I think DeLillo captures how screens have developed multi-faceted functions. They filter or conceal as much as they reveal. They fade into the background as much as they draw attention to themselves as the centerpieces of our living rooms and our lives. And they reveal paradoxes in our digital age,” she said.

“I wanted to write a book about how authors of mainstream literary fiction comment on these and other paradoxes of the digital age and how the elegant yet thorny digital world fits into the world of print culture. “, she continued.

Naydan argues that although there is a seemingly endless stream of information available, we don’t understand it.

“We’ve built a flat world because it’s covered and defined by digital screens. But it has, for example, led to the rise of flat-Earthers, people who literally believe the world is flat because a YouTube video told them so,” Naydan said.

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