Abstract

Why is postwar experimental fiction so concerned with measuring and marking out scene and setting? This article analyzes the fiction of the avant-garde British novelist Ann Quin, both her short stories and her debut novel Berg, focusing on her mise-en-scène, choreography, and tableaux. It argues for a fraught relationship between twentieth-century fiction and setting, from Henry James’s “house of fiction” and Woolf’s denunciation of naturalist interiors, from the self-sufficient psyches of early modernism to the fastidious mapping of scene and place in the theory of the nouveau roman, especially that of Natalie Sarraute and Alain Robbe-Grillet. The importance of Quin’s work for postwar fiction, the article argues, is that it suspends, periodically, the free indirect style of early modernism but also departs from the austere topography of the nouveau roman, so that her fiction furnishes an elastic, anxious, and unstable mise-en-scène.

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