Pages to Come: Utopian Longing and the Merging of the Detective Story with the Artist’s Novel in Alice Notley’s Disobedience

  • Jason Lagapa
Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)


This chapter examines how Alice Notley forges a utopian poetics from an unlikely fusion of the hard-boiled detective genre with the kunstlerroman, or artist’s novel. Lagapa contends that Notley draws on the detective novel to depict the utopian imagination: a detective’s sudden illumination into a mystery, as Ernst Bloch has argued, is equivalent to gaining utopian insight. The artist’s novel likewise yields a glimpse into the utopian, for its narrative also records an epiphany, leading to new a work of art and, potentially, a better future. Finding inspiration in the skeptical, acerbic figure of the hard-boiled detective, Notley herself experiences an artistic breakthrough, creating a disobedient poetics whose negative properties lead to a utopian discovery in the unwritten pages of her book.


Alice Notley Detective Novel Artist’s Novel Utopia Negation Ernst Bloch 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason Lagapa
    • 1
  1. 1.English DepartmentUniversity of Texas of the Permian BasinOdessaUSA

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