The Contemporary

Emily Hyde, Sarah Wasserman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


If “the contemporary” is the heading under which scholars study recent literary, artistic, and cultural forms, what exactly is it? Is it a period? A style? A type of content – networks, finance, or climate change – that feels diagnostic of the present? For literary scholars, the contemporary is a persistently moving target. Rather than stating when it is, we consider critical methods of reading the contemporary alongside the objects they favor and promote. We thereby disrupt the idea of an accepted canon of contemporary fiction by showing the wide array of texts contemporary critics do in fact study. This survey covers contemporary approaches to fiction that find their starting points in the neoliberal economy, in systems and institutions, in theories of the Anthropocene and world literature, and in critical race studies. We conclude with the proliferating “posts” of contemporary literature and theory – post-human, post-racial, and even post-postmodern – and with our intuitions about the temporal and historical function of literary form in contemporary fiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12411
JournalLiterature Compass
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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