Mocking the Age

The Later Novels of Philip Roth

By Elaine B. Safer

Subjects: Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9780791467107, 229 pages, March 2006
Hardcover : 9780791467091, 229 pages, March 2006

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Table of contents


1. Introduction: “Sheer Playfulness and Deadly Seriousness”

2. From The Ghost Writer to The Counterlife: Comic Incongruity and the Road to Postmodernism

3. Operation Shylock: The Double, the Comic, and the Quest for Identity

4. Sabbath’s Theater: Sabbath’s Fear of Death—Raunchy? Picaresque? Heroic?

5. American Pastoral: The Tragicomic Fall of Newark and the House of Levov

6. I Married a Communist: “A Grave Misfortune Replete with Farce”

7. The Human Stain: Comic Irony and the Lives of Coleman Silk

8. The Dying Animal: “Pleasure Is Our Subject”

9. The Plot Against America: Paranoia or Possibility?

10. Conclusion: “The Farcical Edge of Suffering”

Selected Bibliography

Explores the comic devices Roth uses to satirize his times, the Jewish community, and himself.


The first comprehensive assessment of Philip Roth's later novels, Mocking the Age offers rich and insightful readings that explore how these extraordinary works satirize our contemporary culture. From The Ghost Writer to The Plot Against America, Roth uses humor to address deadly serious matters, including social and political issues, psychological problems, postmodern concerns, and the absurd. In her clear and extensive analyses of these works, Elaine B. Safer looks at how Roth's approach to the comic incorporates the self-deprecating humor of Jewish comedians, as well as the humor of nineteenth-century Eastern European Jewish storytellers and such twentieth-century writers as Bernard Malamud and Saul Bellow. Filling the void on critical examinations of Roth's later work, Safer's book provides a thorough appraisal of Roth's lifetime accomplishment and an essential evaluation of his comic genius.

Elaine B. Safer is Professor of English at the University of Delaware and the author of The Contemporary American Comic Epic: The Novels of Barth, Pynchon, Gaddis, and Kesey.