You Can't Write a Social Novel After September 11
In the wake of September 11, a debate took place in the literary pages of newspapers and journals across the western world reflecting widespread anxiety about the relevance of literature. Editors asked whether literature was capable of keeping up with the increased complexity of contemporary life, or, indeed, whether literature should been seen as having a social function at all. This paper addresses the fate of the socially focused novel of the last two centuries. It argues that the dream of the social novel is primarily a political rather than an aesthetic one, and that, in this sense, the social novel must not only address the social in its content and form, but must in some sense be enfranchised as a social object, and circulate as such. This raises questions about the role of the writer and of an increasingly marginalised (and marginalizing) concept of literature in contemporary consumer capitalist society.
Nelson, C. (2008). You can't write a social novel after September 11. New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice & Theory of Creative Writing, 5(1), 50-64. doi: 10.1080/14790720802237220