Working through the working class: the case of Jonathan Lethem’s Dissident Gardens

Rowcroft, Andrew (2015) Working through the working class: the case of Jonathan Lethem’s Dissident Gardens. In: What Ever Happened to the Working Class?, 17th September, 2015, Senate House, School of Advanced Studies, Bloomsbury, London.

17812 Working Class Conference Programme.pdf
17812 Working Class Conference Programme.pdf - Table of Contents

Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Marxist literary theorisation has long proposed that the gaps, absences and contradictions evident within the literary text constitute a productive site for critical exploration. Turning a harsh gaze upon Jonathan Lethem’s Dissident Gardens (2013), a multigenerational narrative dealing with the legacy of American communism, civil rights activism and class consciousness, this paper proposes that the seeming avoidance (even abandonment) of the working class within a text focused on excavating the history of US communism, offers a number of interesting parallels with contemporary post-Marxism.

Using Wendy Brown’s famous essay ‘Resisting Left Melancholia’ (1999), and the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, particularly their Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (1985), the paper aims to contribute to developing new critical approaches to class by seeking to complicate the notion that post-Marxism has abandoned class categories for the seemingly more productive paradigms of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, post-structuralism and postmodernism. While Dissident Gardens seems to suggest, like Brown’s essay, that the radical left is crippled by a nostalgia for the failures of European Marxism, (‘socialism's failure as an intimate wound’), the text seeks to address marginalisation, discrimination and abandonment in all its forms. The paper closes by tentatively arguing that the novel can be positioned within an emerging cannon of post-Marxist fiction.

Keywords:contemporary American fiction, communism
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
Related URLs:
ID Code:17812
Deposited On:09 Jul 2015 10:41

Repository Staff Only: item control page