Not a Big Deal


Not a Big Deal

Narrating to Unsettle

Paul Ardoin

Frontiers of Narrative Series

318 pages
4 photographs, 6 illustrations, index


August 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2021


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Not a Big Deal asks how texts might work to unsettle readers at a moment when unwelcome information is rejected as fake news or rebutted with alternative facts. When readers already recognize “defamiliarizing texts” as a category, how might texts still work toward the goals of defamiliarization? When readers refuse to grapple with texts that might shock them or disrupt their extant views about politics, race, or even narrative itself, how can texts elicit real engagement?

This study draws from philosophy, narratology, social neuroscience, critical theory, and numerous other disciplines to read texts ranging from novels and short stories to graphic novels, films, and fiction broadcasted and podcasted—all of which enact curious strategies of disruption while insisting that they do no such thing.

Following a model traceable to Toni Morrison’s criticism and short fiction, texts by Kyle Baker, Scott Brown, Percival Everett, Daniel Handler, David Robert Mitchell, Jordan Peele, and Colson Whitehead suggest new strategies for unsettling the category-based perceptions behind what Everett calls “the insidious colonialist reader’s eye which infects America.” Not a Big Deal examines problems in our perception of the world and of texts and insists we do the same.

Author Bio

Paul Ardoin is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy and Classics at the University of Texas at San Antonio.


"Not a Big Deal facilitates an important conversation on narrative, perception, and race. Drawing from multiple disciplines such as narratology, cognitive science, and philosophy, Ardoin (Univ. of Texas, San Antonio) invites readers to consider two central concepts: unsettling narration and unsettled sight. . . . Rigorous and eminently readable, Not a Big Deal illuminates a significant social problem and proposes ideas and practices that could make one a more ethical reader and person."—J. D. Harding, Choice

“A spellbinding discussion that traces the ways a single perceptual problem plays out in a range of political and aesthetic contexts. . . . Insightful and powerful.”—Susanna Siegel, Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University and author of The Rationality of Perception

“Calling on the resources of cultural studies, philosophy, cognitive studies, and narrative theory, Ardoin illuminates some maximally high-stakes cases of unsettling narration, including ‘Recitatif,‘ Zone One, and Get Out. It’s a tour de force.”—Brian McHale, cofounder of Project Narrative, Ohio State University

“Extremely important. Not a Big Deal is that rare literary-theoretical project that actually has its feet on the ground. Paul Ardoin identifies and names practices of writing and reading that haven’t been previously noticed or named, contributing something new to literary studies, narrative theory, and reception studies.”—Lesley Larkin, professor of English at Northern Michigan University and author of Race and the Literary Encounter

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Alternative Facts and Bad Stories
Part 1. Settled and Unsettled Perception
1. Seeing and Settled Seeing
2. Not Unfamiliar
3. Obligations to Unsettle Sight
4. Not Showing and Not Seeing Race
Part 2. Narrating to Unsettle
5. Case Studies in Unsettling Narration
Conclusion: Dramas of Cognition
Works Cited

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