Present Tense: A Poetics

Author(s): Armen Avanessian (Free University Berlin, Germany)

Literary theory

The invention of the present-tense novel is a literary event whose importance is on par with the discovery of perspective in painting. From the first novels shaped by interior monologues and the use of the present tense in the tradition of modernism, the present tense has, over the course of its century-long evolution, changed the conditions of fictional narration, along with our conceptions of time in a philosophical and linguistic framework. Indeed, to understand the work of an increasing number of contemporary writers - J.M. Coetzee, Tom McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, to name only a few - it is necessary to both understand the distinct linguistic and literary qualities of the present tense as well as its historical transformation into a genuine tense of contemporary storytelling. For the first time in literary scholarship, Present Tense: A Poetics offers an account of a profound development in 20th- and 21st-century fiction.


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Describes how the present tense was invented and why the poetics of the present tense novel is essential for an understanding of contemporary literature and the evolution of the novel since modernism.

Armen Avanessian is Visiting Faculty in the MA Aesthetics and Politics program in the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts, USA, and, since 2014, Visiting Lecturer at the Art Institute, FHN Academy Basel, Switzerland. Previously he has been a Visiting Fellow in the German Department at Columbia University and in the German Department at Yale University. From 2007-2014 he taught at the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature at Free University Berlin, Germany. He is editor in chief at Merve Verlag Berlin. In 2012 he founded a bilingual research platform on Speculative Poetics, including a series of events, translations and publications: Anke Hennig is a theorist of literature and visual culture. Currently she is teaching at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London, UK, and organising the international research group 'Retro-Formalism' ( Previously she taught at the Peter Szondi Institute of Comparative Literature at Free University Berlin, Germany, and has been a Fulbright Fellow at New York University, USA.

Acknowledgments Introduction 1. The Present Tense Novel 2. Readings in Methodology 3. The Imaginary Present Tense 4. Tense Philosophy Conclusion Glossary Notes

General Fields

  • : 9781628927641
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Academic USA
  • : September 2015
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Armen Avanessian (Free University Berlin, Germany)
  • : Paperback
  • : 304