Cover of New Sincerity by Adam Kelly
New Sincerity
American Fiction in the Neoliberal Age
Adam Kelly

SERIES: Post*45

October 2024
386 pages.
from $35.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503640269
Paperback ISBN: 9781503640696



The years 1989–2008 were an era of neoliberal hegemony in US politics, economy, and culture. Post*45 scholar Adam Kelly argues that American novelists who began their careers during these years—specifically the post-baby boom generation of writers born between the late 1950s and early 1970s—responded to the times by developing in their fiction an aesthetics of sincerity. How, and in what way, these writers ask, can you mean what you say, and avow what you feel, when what you say and feel can be bought and sold on the market? What is authentic art in a historical moment when the artist has become a model for neoliberal subjectivity rather than its negation? Through six chapters focused on key writers of the period—including Susan Choi, Helen DeWitt, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, George Saunders, Dana Spiotta, Colson Whitehead, and David Foster Wallace—the book explores these central questions while intervening critically in a set of debates in contemporary literary studies concerning aesthetics, economy, gender, race, class, and politics. Offering the capstone articulation of a set of influential arguments made by the author over a decade and more, New Sincerity constitutes a field-defining account of a period that is simultaneously recent and historically bound, and of a generation of writers who continue to shape the literary landscape of the present.

About the author

Adam Kelly is Associate Professor of English, University College Dublin, Ireland.

"For well over a decade, my conversations with Adam Kelly have made a vibrant addition to my writing life, both strengthening my awareness of my literary context and helping me to define—and even understand—what I'm trying to do."

—Jennifer Egan, author of The Candy House

"Adam Kelly is one of the liveliest and most exciting thinkers around."

—Paul Murray, author of The Bee Sting

"Kelly is a major voice in the scholarly conversation on contemporary US fiction. This book is both a lucid summary and a brilliant further development of his important arguments about New Sincerity aesthetics."

—Lee Konstantinou, University of Maryland, College Park

"New Sincerity is a blockbuster, the deepest account we have of the complex ethical orientation of a whole generation of US writers to neoliberal capitalism. Kelly ably revivifies the literary period immediately preceding our own in all its conflicted glory."

—Mark McGurl, Stanford University

"New Sincerity provides a compelling framework for understanding millennial American literature. Kelly traces a generation's commitment to sincerity in its fiction and culture, while revealing its failures to wholly escape the market values and dictates it contests."

—Ralph Clare, Boise State University

"This groundbreaking book is riveting to read, philosophically sophisticated, and politically insightful. Equally sensitive to the historical and the aesthetic, the economic and the existential, Kelly sets a new standard for the expressive power of literary criticism."

—Martin Hägglund, Yale University