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Other Possible Wars: Genre, Metafiction and the Ethics of Art in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (pp. 83-102)

Isabel Marqués López

Complutense University of Madrid


In the last few decades, American fiction has aimed to explore the ethical possibilities of language and art. In this new tradition, Michael Chabon combines plots and motifs from American popular culture with postmodern narrative techniques with a double purpose: exploring the meanings of contemporary Jewish identity, and interrogating the legitimacy of American myths and narratives. Chabon’s acclaimed novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000) is an example of Jewish-American fiction that explores the question of Jewish identity in post-war America through the motifs of exile, popular culture, and superhero narratives. In doing so, however, it also considers the ethical problems of surviving the Shoah and thriving surrounded by multiple fictions.

This paper examines Chabon’s use of metafictional strategies as well as the meanings of creativity within the ontological frame of the main characters, arguing that Chabon stands at an intersection between the self-reflexive practice of postmodernist fiction and the ethical possibilities of narrative and art. Despite the critiques against Chabon’s ethically deviant approach to Holocaust history, Kavalier and Clay advocates fiction as a powerful tool that reveals the possibilities and responsibilities of writing the self in a collective (hi)story.

Keywords: Michael Chabon; Jewish American fiction; Metafiction; Trauma; Ethics


Isabel Marqués López is a predoctoral researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid. Her areas of interest include contemporary US American (non)fiction, 21st century women’s writing, autobiography theory and affect theory. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Studies and a Master’s degree in Advanced Studies in Literature and Film in English, both from the University of Zaragoza. She is currently working on a PhD thesis on narratives and testimonies of sexual harassment after the #MeToo movement in US literature and media, including works by Chanel Miller, Lucia Osborne-Crowley, Myriam Gurba and Carmen María Machado. Her doctoral research is funded by a Research Fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Universities (FPU-MU).

e-mail addressisabmarq@ucm.es


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