"We Cannot Create": The Limits of History in Joyce Carol Oates's The Accursed

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In this chapter, McLennan argues that in Joyce Carol Oates’s baffling, enormous novel The Accursed (2013), the undecidability of genre is key to an understanding of the text, which employs, deconstructs, and parodies a number of conventions of historical fiction in its recounting of seemingly supernatural events. Arguing against the few critical positions that exist in relation to this ambitious novel—and generally addressing the lack of critical attention it has received—McLennan contends that Oates’s genre-defying exploration of mysterious happenings in early twentieth-century Princeton, New Jersey, is conducted in order to explore some of her most central concerns—principally the explicit and implicit violence of power as it relates to gender and race in America—as these concerns complicate or compromise the act of telling stories about history. And she shows that through such concerns, the novel can be read as a cautionary message to twenty-first-century America.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication21st Century US Historical Fiction
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary Responses to the Past
EditorsRuth Maxey
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-41897-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-41896-0
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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