There is currently a profound debate occurring across the globe regarding the nature of addiction: whether or not addiction is a disease. Within the last decade, addiction research and publications have flooded the market, which challenge the disease model for understanding addiction. This new research suggests that addiction is a learned behavior thus addiction begins as a habit that, if continued, becomes an ingrained behavior, but it is not a disease, like diabetes or heart disease.

Concurrently, there is much discussion within academia as to what is presently occurring in literary and critical theory trends. Although there is still much debate about the beginning and end of (post)modernism and the definitions of both eras, researchers are now observing a shift in literary aesthetics, critical theories, and cultural dynamics. Leading scholars of this new movement, Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, assign the term “metamodernism” to this shift because the prefix “meta” signifies the fluidity of the movement: it is at once between and beyond (post)modernism

It is with these two contemporary shifts in mind (both of which are decidedly influenced by previously held ideologies) that I will examine how contemporary authors and their fiction depart from preceding paradigms. I will draw a parallel between certain predominate characteristics of postmodern literary styles and critical theories (i.e. irony, play, cynicism, paranoia, etc.) and the discomfort that most addicts experience (i.e. shame, anxiety, cynicism, paranoia, etc.). I will then analyze how metamodern authors–specifically David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Zadie Smith–and their novels continue postmodernism’s experimentation with form while moving away from postmodernism’s detachment to again explore modernism’s themes such as authenticity and sincerity. These attributes–sincerity, vulnerability, etc.–ultimately enable the addict to cognitively and behaviorally reframe their engagement with their addiction, and I will argue that these very qualities also push the literary community out of the postmodern refrain.

Date of publication

Spring 4-3-2017

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Committee members

Dr. Carolyn Tilghman, Dr. Ann Beebe, Dr. Anett Jessop


Master of Arts in English