Apr 2, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
Ben’s dissertation, “Swallowing a World: Globalization and the Maximalist Novel,” has been awarded the Josephine A. Roberts LSU Alumni Association 2018 Distinguished Dissertation Award. The Distinguished Dissertation Award goes to the dissertation that makes the most significant “contribution to knowledge” in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences each year. Directed by Professors Pallavi Rastogi and Joseph Kronick (co-chairs) as well as Professor Patrick McGee, “Swallowing a World” argues that the maximalist novel is a formal response to globalization and a global phenomenon in its own right. To support this claim, “Swallowing a World” analyzes a series of massive and meandering novels that represent, formally reproduce, and ultimately invite readers to reflect upon the effects of globalization. Drawing on recent globalization theorists as well as the aesthetics of Theodor Adorno, each chapter considers a maximalist novel published over the last half century that maps and self-consciously mimics a key tenet of globalization, including the so-called “End of History” (William Gaddis’s J R), the englobing and addicting logic of capitalism (David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest), the manufactured certainty of contemporary fundamentalism (Zadie Smith’s White Teeth), and the subsumption of knowledge by narrative (Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know). By demonstrating how, for example, Rahman’s analysis of the tension between knowledge and narrative encourages us to pursue knowledge in a way that is wide-ranging but also reflective, “Swallowing the World” highlights the political significance of a genre that is often described as unnecessarily erudite and exclusively American. In addition to receiving the Distinguished Dissertation Award, a version of its chapter on White Teeth is published in Contemporary Literature.