Michael Cunningham’s The Hours: Homage to the Book in a Time of Media Transformation
Aleida Assmann considers Michael Cunningham’s postmodern novel as an allegory of immersive reading that paid tribute to book culture at the very moment American society transitioned into the digital age. Cunningham reworks Virginia Woolf’s canonical modernist novel Mrs Dalloway (1923) to alert his readers to the printed book’s potential for fostering certain modes of attention and self-cultivation associated with the humanist tradition. Thoroughly situating the novel’s form and themes in literary history, Assmann shows that The Hours takes recourse to the long-standing literary topos of reading addiction to present the material book not merely as a means of bourgeois identity assurance but also as a drug—a pharmacon—that can foster both escapism and resistance, nostalgia and innovation.
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