Walden, Withdrawal and Freedom
Departing from the U. S. critics’ seemingly synchronic reception of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, the project will offer a diachronic reading of the novel as an elegy on Thoreau’s Walden and on the withdrawal motif of American literature in general. As a reading of the novel expands along historical lines, the ecocritical potential of the novel is unfolded. The project will also analyse the reception of Freedom among U. S. critics; its nature and its causes.
About the project
Franzen’s novel portraits a society where withdrawal becomes hard, or even impossible, as the suburbs and urbanity is drawing closer, capitalism ruining nature. A diachronic close reading of Freedom activates the novel’s ecocritical potential, in ways not apparent in the seemingly synchronic reception of the novel by U. S. critics. The reception of Freedom in the U. S. has apparently not focused on withdrawal as a theme or motif. The critics seem to have read the novel along two main lines; “the great American novel”, an investigation of the American society through the microhistory of the American nuclear family. Alternatively; Freedom as the “romantic novel”, focusing on the triangular drama (or love triangle) between the three main characters of the novel. Hence, the novel seems to have been interpreted using mainly a synchronic approach. An analysis of the nature and causes of the U.S. reception will constitute the second part of the project. Exploring the causes of the reception of Freedom has to proceed along to paths: An analysis of the immanent structures of the text along with an exploration of the reader’s Ertwartungshorizont. In what way(s) does the model reader – il Lettore Modello – of the text comply with the actual reader? Does the text activate or mobilize different model readers?