"A Strangely Organic Vision": Postmodernism, Environmental Justice, and the New Urbanist Novel
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My dissertation examines critical engagements with the "new urbanist" movement in late 20th and early 21st century U.S. novels, including Karen Tei Yamashita's Tropic of Orange, Helena María Viramontes's Their Dogs Came with Them, and Colson Whitehead's Zone One. I argue that these novels reflect new urbanism's valorization of neighborhoods that are walkable, green, and diverse, even as they critique the movement's inattention to environmental injustice and the long history of urban rights movements. Moreover, I argue that contemporary fiction's engagement with new urbanism has driven formal and stylistic innovation in the novel. The "new urbanist novel," I argue, blends elements of the postmodern literary mode, such as metafiction and narrative fragmentation, with elements that are arguably anti-postmodern, such as representations of stable collective identity and utopian visions of organic urban community.