Alluvium Editorial 8.2: Locating the Centre in Contemporary Literature

This special issue of Alluvium takes as its subject contemporary literature’s relationship with the political centre. The editors remind us that there is more than one answer to this question. Indeed, locating this ideological ground is in part so difficult because of the constantly shifting discursive environment concerning centrism, and its relationship with both the left and the right.

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Class, Authenticity and Centrism

The wider political formation of centrism within the last two decades can be more thoroughly articulated by examining its cultural expressions. This article argues that no accounting of the political centre’s literary and cultural mediations would be complete without Ian McEwan, who has shown remarkable permanence as the pinnacle of a specifically English, middlebrow literary culture.

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Decentring the “Scumbag” Veteran

“How do you get to be a scumbag?” wonders the veteran protagonist of Nico Walker’s novel, “Cherry”. A tale of war, dope fiends and bank robbery, Walker’s auto-fictional debut isn’t short of despicable people doing despicable things. The scumbag veteran, however, marks a striking departure from the veteran hero familiar to the contemporary cultural landscape.

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The Centrality of the Trivial

At the centre of our collective inability to apprehend the climate crisis is our failure to imagine ourselves as anything other than the centre of everything. This article examines Jenny Offill’s novel “Weather” arguing that it stages the contemporary Western subject’s centring on its own trivialities as necessary to survival on an individual scale, yet also as threat to the survival of the planet.

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Now “The Fact That” Then

This article examines the dissolution of the centre as a fecund literary frame of reference. Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport” (2019) is a novel that is written on the precipice of crisis. It is an experimental novel of (mostly) one sentence that documents a contemporary crisis of distraction so engrossing that we do not have time to acknowledge its magnitude.

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