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On Endings

American Postmodern Fiction and the Cold War
Daniel Grausam

BUY Cloth · 208 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813931616 · $55.00 · Aug 2011
BUY Paper · 208 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813931623 · $25.00 · Aug 2011
BUY Ebook · 208 pp. · ISBN 9780813931661 · $25.00 · Aug 2011

What does narrative look like when the possibility of an expansive future has been called into question? This query is the driving force behind Daniel Grausam’s On Endings, which seeks to show how the core texts of American postmodernism are a response to the geopolitical dynamics of the Cold War and especially to the new potential for total nuclear conflict. Postwar American fiction needs to be rethought, he argues, by highlighting postmodern experimentation as a mode of profound historical consciousness.

In Grausam’s view, previous studies of fiction mimetically concerned with nuclear conflict neither engage the problems that total war might pose to narration nor take seriously the paradox of a war that narrative can never actually describe. Those few critical works that do take seriously such problems do not offer a broad account of American postmodernism. And recent work on postmodernism has offered no comprehensive historical account of the part played by nuclear weapons in the emergence of new forms of temporal and historical experience. On Endings significantly extends the project of historicizing postmodernism while returning the nuclear to a central place in the study of the Cold War.


On Endings is a first-rate, completely coherent, extremely well-researched, and compellingly lucid contribution to our understanding of American literature during the Cold War. This book will be invaluable to people preparing to teach postwar American fiction.

Alan Nadel, University of Kentucky · author of Containment Culture: American Narratives, Postmodernism, and the Atomic Age

On Endings is a very fine book exhibiting two virtues quite difficult to combine: first, a magisterial command of a substantial body of literature on postmodern fiction, nuclear proliferation, and the Cold War; and second, a laserlike focus on a single key point or problem upon which much of the originality of postmodern fiction turns: the problem of futurelessness, the actual prospect of an empty world—empty, at least, of human beings. The combination is very impressive indeed. The execution of the argument could hardly be stronger, and the topic could hardly be more important.

Mark McGurl, UCLA

[I]nnovative, elaborate, highly intelligent, striking in its cleverness, and deeply provocative of big ideas about the significance of postmodern culture and the arguably novel features of life under the sign of the Bomb.

Contemporary Literature

About the Author(s): 

Daniel Grausam is Assistant Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis and the coeditor of the forthcoming American Literature and Culture in an Age of Cold War.

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