Theses Doctoral

The Terms of Our Connection: Affiliation and Difference in the Post-1960 North American Novel

James, Jennifer M.

This dissertation considers a neglected legacy of the long 1960s (1959-1975): the struggle to form lasting connections across seemingly irreparable social divides. Through a comparative analysis of North American novels by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Linda Hogan, Tim O'Brien and Susan Choi, I identify a common story their works all share: the narrative of affiliation. These novels of affiliation, I argue, represent the creation of lateral bonds of attachment among individuals of different races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and classes. As a transgressive and unruly form of interpersonal relationship, affiliation works to bridge divisions by joining together the contradictory feelings of erotic desire and friendship. Defining an overlooked sub-genre of the post-1960 North American novel of development, this project illuminates the heterogeneous bonds of solidarity that undoubtedly arose during the sixties, yet have been continually silenced by national discourses of identity and multiculturalism. In the wake of neo-liberalism, 1960s collective projects for social change, including the New Left, the civil rights movement, Black Nationalism, feminism, and the Asian American movement, among others, appear historically and ideologically separate, and even antagonistic. In stark contrast, this dissertation illuminates the common ethics of affiliation that aligned these disparate movements and was built from collaborative, immanent and provisional attempts at repairing suffering and disparity. Positioned not within, but alongside the fraught history of the sixties, this project offers a new portrait of the subterranean modes of experimental living that animated the era.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Hirsch, Marianne
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 2, 2014