The Global and the Multilinear: Notes for a Typology of Novelistic Networks

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Marco Caracciolo


According to Alexander Beecroft, the defining formal feature of the global literary ecology is the “entrelacement,” or a poetics of intertwined story lines. Adopting a narratological and New Formalist methodology, this paper sees multinearity as an increasingly significant response to the challenges of narrativizing the material and social processes that underlie globalization. From A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki to The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (to name but two examples), the global novel builds on an orchestration of disparate story lines to convey the interconnectedness of planetary forces, but also the economic rifts and social inequities that traverse the contemporary world. The paper develops a typology of these contemporary “network narratives” (to use David Bordwell’s terminology). In some instances, multiple story lines are connected by way of chance encounters between characters (coincidence plots); in other cases, it is the global circulation of a material object that brings the characters together (object – oriented plots); in yet other narratives, the progression revolves around kinship (family sagas) or a sense of fatalistic entanglement (predestination plots). The paper argues that these narrative forms seek to negotiate the tension between two imaginative and affective positions: the characters’ inescapable moral and material entanglement in globalization and a longing for enchantment that represents a nostalgic or utopian alternative to globalization.

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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The Global Novel: Crossing Circulation and Poetics