This special issue argues that our cultural moment marks a point of crisis and transition in the history of the novel. Discussing mostly twenty-first-century writers, including Michael Chabon, Vikram Chandra, Don DeLillo, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Franzen, David Lodge, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatje, and Orhan Pamuk, the contributors interrogate and revise our ideas of contemporaneity and how it can be studied. Their essays consider how novelists adapt to a global economy in which traditionally local forms of community no longer define human experience. They also examine the emergence of neurology and neuropsychology as popular discourses that have displaced the novel from its centrality as the supreme analyst of the mind. Contributors attempt to address the exasperation of literary critics disenchanted with many dominant reading practices, such as approaching fiction via reader experiences of "affect" and "trauma" or relying on staid period categories like postmodernism.
Offering a way forward, this special issue emphasizes a new critical awareness of the singular qualities of the novel, a form whose truths may not be (and may never have been) translatable to other cognitive, scientific, or political vocabularies.