Architectures of age: adulthood, age-based relationality & space in post-1980 New York City literature

Cameron, Danielle Helen (2024) Architectures of age: adulthood, age-based relationality & space in post-1980 New York City literature. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

[thumbnail of FINAL_Danielle_Cameron_100099183_PhD_Thesis.pdf] PDF
Restricted to Repository staff only until 30 April 2027.

Request a copy


This thesis argues for a reconsideration of the significance of age in post-1980 New York City literature. By tracing a symbiotic relationship between the narration of age and space, I locate how constructions of adulthood institute a narrative architecture of age-based relationality. This architecture, I argue, structures the ways in which adult characters are centred, and child characters othered, in New York City writing.

Building upon work in children’s literature, age and queer studies, this thesis develops a terminology aimed at deconstructing age in literature. This terminology identifies the normativity of cultural constructions of age, where a form of adulthood (namely white, male and middle-class) and its markers (marriage, homeownership, career) are enshrined. My project considers how works by Don DeLillo, Paul Auster, Jennifer Egan and Colson Whitehead engage with normative representations of adulthood. By analysing novels published under late capitalism, I assert that age normativity and its markers propagate neoliberal conditions of contemporary America. Identifying New York City as a place signifying both
success and subversion in the American cultural imaginary, I assess the ways in which these authors spatialise age-based relationality to either reproduce or resist age normativity in their writing.

In this thesis’s first chapter, I further establish my interdisciplinary critical terminology for analysing age in literature. In Chapter Two, I examine thereaffirming relationship between age normativity and gentrification in The Brooklyn Follies (2005) and Falling Man (2007). I then look to structures of kinship in Sag Harbor (2009) and A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) as unsettling normative age-based relations. Chapter Four asserts the significance of spatial immersion in adult selfrealisation in Cosmopolis (2003) and Manhattan Beach (2017). In the final chapter, I
examine possibilities to reimagine adulthood in the apocalyptic cities of In the Country of Last Things (1987) and Zone One (2011).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2024 13:10
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2024 13:10

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item