Neomedievalism in Three Contemporary City Novels: Tobar, Adichie, Lee

Caren Irr


"Many recent novels of the metropolis imagine the city as a site of social struggle—even catastrophe—and highlight the needs of an exploited urban population that are not met by the nation-state. Displacing depictions of the modernist city as a site of aesthetic and personal liberation through flanerie or inter-ethnic contact, these novels envision a condition of extreme social crisis that coheres around certain neomedieval relations, even though the costuming and characterization do not evoke the knights and princesses familiar in more recognizable forms of neomedieval fantasy....this essay examines the central tropes of this sensibility in three celebrated works of urban fiction: Héctor Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier (1998), Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah (2013), and Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea (2014). Although varied in their political commitments, regional affiliations, and generic practices, these three novels share spatial and social patterns derived from a neomedieval vision of the city-state."

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