Character and Satire in Postwar Fiction (London and New York: Continuum, 2006)
Character and Satire in Postwar Fiction discusses postmodernist theories of identity
in relation to contemporary fiction, and shows that characterisation in the writing
of such authors as Joseph Heller, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Ralph Ellison,
Toni Morrison, Angela Carter and Martin Amis is best understood by reference to a
satirical view of the self which subverts liberal humanist assumption.
This monograph analyses the use of caricature as one of the key strategies in narrative
fiction since the war.
Close analysis of some of the best known post-war novelists, reveals how they use
caricature to express postmodern conceptions of the self. In the process of moving
away from the modernist focus on subjectivity, postmodern characterisation has often
drawn on a much older satirical tradition which includes Hogarth and Gillray in the
visual arts, and Dryden, Pope, Swift and Dickens in literature. Its key images depict
the human as reduced to the status of an object, an animal or a machine, or the human
body as dismembered to represent the fragmentation of the human spirit.
Gregson argues that this return to caricature is symptomatic of a satirical attitude
to the self which is particularly characteristic of contemporary culture.