Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation argues that the maximalist novel is an aesthetic response to globalization and a global phenomenon in its own right. To support this claim, I analyze the ways in which four maximalist novels—William Gaddis’s J R (1975), David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996), Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (2000), and Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know (2014)—both map and formally mimic different elements of globalization. Each of these novels, I argue, is organized around a significant feature or, to put it simply, “effect” of globalization. This organization is so extensive that not only the vast majority of their characters but the novels themselves can be said to embody, or mimic, the features that they ostensibly critique, including the so-called “end of history” (J R), the englobing and addictive logic of capitalism (Infinite Jest), the manufactured certainty of contemporary fundamentalism (White Teeth), and the disjunction between narrative and knowledge (In the Light). Pairing the aesthetics of Theodor Adorno with theorists of globalization such as Arjun Appadurai and Antonio Negri, I conclude that, by mapping and mimicking these features, maximalist novels encourage a dialectical form of reflection particularly germane to the complexities of globalization. As readers of a maximalist novel experience the problems it diagnoses, they are invited to think about the effects of globalization in terms that are abstract and systematic as well as concrete and particular.



Committee Chair

Rastogi, Pallavi



Available for download on Tuesday, May 13, 2025