A poetic meditation on the challenges and pleasures of contemporary speculative fiction
Winner of the Elizabeth Agree Prize in American Literary Studies
Dear Incomprehension: On American Speculative Fiction is a thought-provoking exploration of the fascinating field of contemporary speculative fiction, a genre that transcends boundaries and encompasses science fiction, fabulist tales, modern fairy tales, and experimental narratives that challenge the very essence of storytelling and reading.
Written as a philosophical essay that mirrors the unorthodox nature of the texts it analyzes, Dear Incomprehension examines American works that defy traditional narrative devices such as plot, character, logic, and even legibility. Drawing on a number of philosophical theories, among them object-oriented ontology and speculative realism, Vanderhaeghe argues that these unconventional works resist the standard tools of criticism, demanding instead a novel perspective and approach.
An in-depth resource for scholars and students of contemporary literature, philosophy, and digital literary studies, Dear Incomprehension offers a fresh framework for analyzing experimental fiction and alternative modes of meaning-making. It is a must-read for those seeking to grasp the complexities and nuances of American experimental and speculative fiction.
“Dear Incomprehensionis well written, engaging, and provides a compelling (anti)framework for reading contemporary experimental fiction. It unfolds a delightfully performative provocation of the reading and speculative practices it proposes we attend more closely to, opening up timely inquiries into the objects of literary studies today.”
—Laura Shackelford, author of Tactics of the Human: Experimental Technics in American Fiction
“Dear Incomprehension is our new guide to critical failure. It is a thrilling experience of the nexus between contemporary American speculative fiction and poststructuralism—s realist and materialist aftereffects. Vanderhaeghe’s readings are smart, lively, perceptive, and often surprising. They turn the contradictions at the core of literary meaning, referential realism, and critical authority around in circles. The astonishing afflictions of speculation shine forth in a new light.”
—Zachary Tavlin, author of Glancing Visions: Surface and Depth in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
“Some of us might recall David Markson’s claim in 2001 that This Is Not a Novel. And now, Stéphane Vanderhaeghe has put together a long list of contrarian American fictions, including those by Shelley Jackson, Gary Lutz, Ben Marcus, Blake Butler, Jane Unrue, Mark Doten, and Lucy Corin. Themes in these works are tagged. Keywords and concepts are collected. And Vanderhaeghe takes us ‘a step or two outside’ the established categories of ‘experimental,’ ‘innovative,’ ‘difficult,’ and even ‘apocalyptic.’ What he offers instead is a refreshing, speculative turn in American literature’s lineage.”
—Joseph Tabbi, principle researcher at the Center for Digital Narrative at the University of Bergen in Norway