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The Labour of Laziness in Twentieth-Century American Literature

Zuzanna Ladyga

Hardback (Forthcoming)

Analyses the theme of laziness in twentieth-century American Literature

  • Uncovers the ethical dimension of the writing of Stein, Hemingway, Barth, Barthelme and Wallace by situating them in the context of the 20th century non-normative ethical and aesthetic tradition
  • Shows how the Romantic interest in laziness plays out through the modernist and postmodernist moments in 20th century American literature
  • Offers an innovative model of ethical reading based on the concept of unproductivity as an alternative to the dominant post-Romantic trends in the field of ethical criticism
  • Presents the first comprehensive study of laziness as a theoretical concept, which draws on a range of religious and philosophical references points, spanning John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas, Theodor Adorno, Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben and Catherine Malabou

The Labour of Laziness in Twentieth-Century American Literature focuses on the issue of productivity, using the figure of laziness to negotiate the relation between the ethical and the aesthetic. This book argues that major twentieth-century American writers such as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, John Barth, Donald Barthelme and David Foster Wallace provocatively challenge the ethos of productivity by filtering their ethical interventions through culturally stigmatised imagery of laziness. Ladyga argues that when the motif of laziness appears, it invariably reveals the underpinnings of an emerging value system at a given historical moment, while at the same time offering a glimpse into the strategies of rebelling against the status quo.



Part I: The Philosophical And Literary Contexts of Laziness

1. Laziness as Concept-Metaphor
2. Laziness in American Literature: The Inaugural Moment

Part II: The Modernist Moment of Laziness

3. Cessation And Inaction Externe: Gertrude Stein and Marcel Duchamp
4. Laziness and Tactility in Ernest Heminwgway’s The Garden Of Eden

Part III: The Postmodern Moment of Laziness

5. Exhaustion of Possibilities: Harold Rosenberg, John Barth And Susan Sontag
6: Inertia and Not-Knowing on the Fiction Of Donald Barthelme
7: Acedia And David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King


About the Author

Zuzanna Ladyga is Associate Professor, American Literature Department, Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw, Poland. Her first book is titled Rethinking Postmodern Subjectivity: Emmanuel Levinas and Ethics of Referentiality in the Work of Donald Barthelme (Peter Lang, 2009).

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