The University of Wisconsin Press

Literary Criticism / American Literature / Cultural Studies


Hints and Guesses
William Gaddis's Fiction of Longing
Christopher J. Knight

"This will become the standard study of Gaddis."—Steven Moore, author of William Gaddis

The author of four truly important novels—The Recognitions in 1955, J R in 1975, Carpenter's Gothic in 1985, and A Frolic of His Own in 1995—William Gaddis is considered by many literary scholars to be one of the most outstanding novelists of the twentieth century, to be spoken of in the same breath as James Joyce, Robert Musil, and Thomas Pynchon.

Hints and Guesses: William Gaddis's Fiction of Longing is the first scholarly work to discuss all four Gaddis novels. While not dismissing the inclination of many scholars to view Gaddis's fiction as postmodern, Christopher Knight moves critical response in another direction, toward a discussion of Gaddis's significance as a satirist and social critic. Knight investigates Gaddis's predominant thematic interests, including those of contemporary aesthetics, Flemish painting, forgery, corporate America, Third World politics, and the U.S. legal system. What Knight finds is an author not only acutely sensitive to post-war social realities but also one whose critique carries with it an implied utopian dimension.

"This is impressive work on one of the four or five major contemporary novelists and on the cultural conditions under which he writes, and it will attract many readers interested in contemporary American literature and culture."—Patrick O'Donnell, author of Echo Chambers: Figuring Voice in Modern Narrative and editor of MFS: Modern Fiction Studies

Christopher Knight, author of The Patient Particulars: American Modernism and the Technique of Originality, has taught at several universities, including New York University, University of Texas at Austin, Lublin University, Warsaw University, and Miami University. At present, he teaches at the State University of New York at Albany.

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February 1997
LC: 96-042512 PS
384 pp.   6 x 9  

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