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Under Fire. William T. Vollmann, «The Rifles»: A Critical Study, Peter Lang, 2016

William T. Vollmann, «The Rifles»: A Critical Study

Françoise Palleau-Papin (ed.)

This study of a novel by William T. Vollmann offers a port of entry into his fiction. Like other titles from his planned «Seven Dreams» collection, The Rifles deconstructs the historical novel. Following in the steps of the nineteenthcentury English explorer John Franklin, the contemporary American character Subzero risks his life in the Arctic, looking for a way to transcend the history of colonization and his personal limitations. He ventures out on the permafrost of his memory, both private and collective, haunted by history as he revisits the Gothic genre. Deploying the poetry of an anachronistic errand into the white wilderness of snow and ice, in the wake of Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab and Edgar Allan Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym, the narrator plays with avatars of the author as an explorer, a historian, a cartographer and a sketch-artist to encounter otherness, whether Inuit women or men, or fellow travelers who exchange with the authorial figure in his search for meaning. This critical analysis uses close-reading, ecocriticism, cultural studies and comparative literature to examine an innovative novel of the post-postmodern canon, by one of the finest contemporary American authors.


Françoise Palleau-Papin: Introduction • Catherine Lanone: From Franklin’s Narrative to Vollmann’s EcoGothic Metafiction • Vincent Bucher: Putting Historical Enquiry to the Test • Françoise Palleau-Papin: Composition as Infinity • Sophie Chapuis: Narrative Voices • Madeleine Laurencin: Female Characters: Between Role and Representation • Christine Lorre-Johnston: Generic Hybridity • Françoise Palleau-Papin: Postface.

Présentation de l’auteur

Françoise Palleau-Papin is Professor of American Literature at the University of Paris 13-Sorbonne Paris Cité, where she codirects the research center Pléiade. After completing a PhD dissertation on Willa Cather, she has published the first critical monograph on David Markson (2011), and edited two others (on Patricia Eakins, and William T. Vollmann).


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