Contact Information

Rabb 142
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See Caren Irr 's web page or Faculty Guide page for more information.


Caren Irr

toward the geopolitical novel (2013) Irr


Department Chair
Ph.D., Duke University

Research Interests

American literature and culture since 1900, social theory, media studies, globalization, contemporary Anglophone fiction.

Selected Publications

"The Space of Genre in the New Green Novel," Routledge, 2014. (Free access for up to 50 readers.)

Toward the Geopolitical Novel: U.S Fiction in the Twenty-First Century, Columbia University Press, 2013. Read the first chapter for free.

Pink Pirates: Contemporary American Women Writers and Copyright, University of Iowa Press, 2010.

On Jameson: From Postmodernism to Globalization, co-editor, State University of New York Press, 2005.

Rethinking the Frankfurt School: Alternative Legacies of Cultural Critique, co-editor, State University of New York Press, 2002.
The Suburb of Dissent: Cultural Politics in the United States and Canada during the 1930s. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.

Articles and reviews in American Literary History, Global Ordering (UBC 2008), Profession, Genre, The Novel and the American Left (Iowa 2004),, American Quarterly, South Atlantic Quarterly, American Literature, Essays on Canadian Writing, Modernism/Modernity, Polygraph, Constructing Human Rights in the Age of Globalization (M.E. Sharpe 2003), World Bank Literature (Minnesota 2002), Leslie Marmon Silko: A Collection of Essays (New Mexico 1999), and other journals and collections. 

Current Projects

Toward the Geopolitical Novel:  U.S. Fiction in the Twenty-First Century (Columbia University Press, December 2013)

This project describes, explains and evaluates the 21st-century resurgence of the political novel.  I show how recent contributions to five major genres (the migration narrative, the Peace Corps thriller, the national allegory, the revolutionary novel, and the expatriate satire) point toward the emergence of a new literary form:  the geopolitical novel.  This form updates the political novel for the interconnected, global environment of the new millennium.   Of the more than 125 authors whose work I have examined for this study, some of my favorites are Helon Habila, Gary Shteyngart, Norman Rush, Madison Smartt Bell, Dinaw Mengestu, Aleksandar Hemon, Chloe Aridjis, and Pankaj Mishra.

Read the first chapter for free on the Columbia University Press webpage.

Orphan Stories

This new book project asks how and why literary treatment of the orphan has shifted in new directions since the heyday of Dickensian sentimentalism. I am mainly examining late 20th- and early 21st-century English-language fiction (plus a few films) that describes the lives of vulnerable children in the US, Brazil, East Africa, Korea, and Russia.  The goal of the project is to figure out how these narratives help adult readers situate themselves in a world system rife with inequality and deprivation.  Some of the authors considered include Vladimir Nabokov, Michael Ondaatje, David Foster Wallace, Lydia Millet, Adam Johnson, David Mitchell, Frances Peebles, Dave Eggers, Meja Mwangi, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Samrat Upadhyay, Stephen Dau, Yasmina Traboulsi, and Jean-Christophe Rufin.

Green Politics and the Novel:  Eco-Fiction in English since 1980

I am also currently writing some essays on the rise of a specifically environmentalist version of the political novel in English-language fiction published since 1980.


Fulbright Lecturer, Czech Republic, 2003-2004.

Selected Courses Taught

Cyber-Theory (ENG 101b)
The Rock and Roll Novel (ENG 177b)
American Fiction since 1945 (ENG 187a)
American Writers and World Affairs (ENG 187b)
American Literature After Television (ENG 217a)
Copyright and Contemporary American Writing (ENG 217b)
21st-Century American Literature (ENG 8a)