Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Novel Media argues that contemporary literature—particularly the novel form—is best decoded in terms of the new media forms that have proliferated since the dawn of the internet. Perhaps no other development has so dramatically shaped contemporary life than the ubiquity of the internet, internet-capable devices, and the myriad social networks that have blossomed within. Fiction is no different; the social media forms that dominate our lives online have also, I argue, rewired the way novels work in the twenty-first century. As such, a new reading practice is required that attends to these seismic changes to the novelistic terrain. The project reads four trends within contemporary fiction that are all fundamentally influenced by developments in new media: first, novels like Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) that incorporate those developments on the page in the form of recreating various new media in print. Second, novels such as Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (2000) whose formal structures are informed by a network logic and temporally shaped in anticipation of and reaction to the dawning of the Internet age; third, political novels that allegorically represent the networks that have informed those politics, like Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (2017); finally, the recent resurgence of the historical novel, a form to which authors have turned experiment in using the narrative and formal innovations of new media to narrate the histories that still bear on the present imposed by new technology, which we see in Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016). These trends are only legible if we attune our reading of these novels towards the media landscape from which they come. This project models that reading practice and the thematic concerns about living in a mediated age that that practice elucidates. The broad geographic scope of Novel Media brings together new media studies, literary studies, and postcolonial studies to ultimately suggests a new way of reading the global contemporary novel, thus radically expanding our generic understandings of the novel itself in varied and specific geopolitical contexts.
Pappalardo, Mary Catherine, "Novel Media: Global Contemporary Fiction in the Digital Age" (2019). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 4853.
Available for download on Saturday, March 14, 2026