"Underwhelmed to the Maximum": American Travellers in Dave Eggers’s 'You Shall Know our Velocity' and Jonathan Safran Foer’s 'Everything is Illuminated'

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    This paper explores the meaning and symbolism of travel in two contemporary American novels. You Shall Know Our Velocity and Everything is Illuminated feature characters engaged in circumatlantic exploration and adventure. Both novels explore through two personal and intimate journeys abroad—the ways in which young Americans perceive and are affected by the world beyond their shores at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as well as the ways in which America has gripped the imagination of those they meet on their travels. The novels engage with the issues of globalization and the Americanization of the world, and even though they may to some extent be read as continuous with the tradition of travel in American literature, they can also be read as reflecting new realities which necessitate new formal and discursive narrative strategies. Drawing on theories of travel, globalization and post-national studies, the paper discusses how language, geographical space, ethnicity and cultural memory are brought into focus as the American travellers cross the Atlantic and encounter the world beyond their shores. The title of this paper highlights the notion of disappointment and anti-climax, and the paper argues that this sense of disappointment stems from the fact that the American travellers find a world that is not sufficiently “other” or different. Owing to its de-familiarized sameness, this world also challenges authorial powers of narration and representation. Subsequently, this paper also discusses the two novels' formal and stylistic innovations, and sees them as continuous with the books' thematic concerns.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-95
    Number of pages13
    JournalAtlantic Studies: Literary, Historical and Cultural Perspectives (Atlantic Studies)
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


    • Circumatlantic travel
    • Twenty-first century fiction
    • Globalization
    • Americanization
    • Foer Johnathan Safran
    • Eggers Dave


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