David Mitchell: Critical Essays by Sarah Dillon

By Sarah Dillon

The end result of the 1st overseas convention on David Mitchell's writing, this number of serious essays, makes a speciality of his first 3 novels - Ghostwritten (1999), number9dream (2001) and Cloud Atlas (2004) - to supply a sustained research of Mitchell's advanced narrative innovations and the literary, political and cultural implications of his early paintings. The essays hide themes starting from narrative constitution, style and the Bildungsroman to representations of Japan, postmodernism, the development of identification, utopia, technology fiction and postcolonialism.


David Mitchell

1. Introducing David Mitchell’s Universe: A Twenty-First Century apartment of Fiction
Sarah Dillon

2. The Novels in 9 Parts
Peter Childs and James Green

3. ‘Or anything like that’: Coming of Age in number9dream
Kathryn Simpson

4. Remediations of ‘Japan’ in number9dream
Baryon Tensor Posadas

5. The tales We inform: Discursive id via Narrative shape in Cloud Atlas
Courtney Hopf

6. Cloud Atlas: From Postmodernity to the Posthuman
Hélène Machinal

7. Cloud Atlas and If on a winter’s evening a
traveller: Fragmentation and Integrity within the Postmodern Novel
Will McMorran

8. ‘Strange Transactions’: Utopia, Transmigration and Time in Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas
Caroline Edwards

9. Speculative Fiction as Postcolonial: Critique in Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas
Nicholas Dunlop

10. ‘Moonlight vivid as a alien craft abduction’: technology Fiction, Present-Future Alienation and Cognitive Mapping
William Stephenson

Notes on Contributors


About the Editor
Sarah Dillon is Lecturer in modern Fiction within the institution of English on the collage of St Andrews. She is writer of The Palimpsest: Literature, feedback, thought (2007) and has released essays on Jacques Derrida, Elizabeth Bowen, H.D., Michel Faber, Maggie Gee and David Mitchell.

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Hopf argues that both the diegetic readers within the novels and the external readers of the novels are led to experience a conflation of life and narrative, calling into question the heretofore strict distinction between the two. Hopf details how this conflation occurs through a variety of discursive techniques: the moments of recognition incited by recurring characters, themes, images and ideas across all of Mitchell’s works; remediation, the representation of one medium within another; and metalepsis, the transgression across narrative levels.

The world of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is colonized by different levels of imprisonment: Jacob and his fellow men are imprisoned on Dejima, unable to leave unless a ship is departing, forbidden to step on Japanese soil; Orito and the other sisters are imprisoned in Enomoto’s mountain shrine; the Japanese are themselves imprisoned within their Empire, forbidden to visit the outside world. Orito’s imprisonment and the enforced prostitution of the Sisters recalls that of Kozue Yamaya in number9dream whose pimp, like Master Suzaku in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, personally dispenses drugs to numb the women’s minds and, it might be supposed, suppress any thoughts of rebellion or escape (n9d, 335; TA, 184).

Stephenson argues that Mitchell’s fictions update the estranging strategies of previous SF, for example those of Philip K. Dick, and force the reader into a new and exhilarating form of cognitive cartography, a re-territorialization of the plural, decentred, estranging present and the already emerging future that is reality in the early twenty-first century. 10 The point on which all the essays seem to agree is that the answer is both yes and no. While Mitchell undoubtedly and unashamedly employs techniques that have come to be understood as postmodern – but which, as Will McMorran helpfully demonstrates, have their origin as far back as early modern literature, not least in Cervantes’s Don Quixote – there is always something in Mitchell’s texts that, as Jose Borghino (2010) writes, ‘keep[s] the worst excesses of po-mo at bay’.

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