The Visionary Moment

A Postmodern Critique

By Paul Maltby

Subjects: American Literature
Series: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791454145, 188 pages, April 2002
Hardcover : 9780791454138, 188 pages, April 2002

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



1. Modalities of the Visionary Moment

2. Validations of the Visionary Moment

3. Metaphysics of the Visionary Moment

4. The Romantic Metaphysics of Don Delillio

5. Saul Bellow's Transfigurable Subjects

6. Jack Kerouac's Rhetoric of Time

7. Ideology of the Visionary Moment


Appendix: The Postmodern Sublime


Works Cited


Explores and critiques the metaphysics and ideology of the visionary moment as a convention in twentieth-century American fiction, from the standpoint of postmodernism.


In The Visionary Moment, Paul Maltby draws on postmodern theory to examine the metaphysics and ideology of the visionary moment, or "epiphany," in twentieth-century American fiction. Engaging critically with the works of Don DeLillo, Jack Kerouac, Saul Bellow, Flannery O'Connor, Alice Walker, and William Faulkner, Maltby explains how the literary convention of the visionary moment promotes the myth that there is a superior level of knowledge that can redeem or regenerate the individual. He contends that this common-sense assumption is a paradigm that needs to be confronted and critiqued.

Paul Maltby is Associate Professor of English at West Chester University. He is the author of Dissident Postmodernists: Barthelme, Coover, Pynchon.


"What allows Maltby consistently to present familiar authors in a new light is a thoroughgoing knowledge of manifestations of the visionary moment from the classical sublime to varieties of Christian conversion narratives to Wordsworth and the Romantics to Joyce. Despite a surprising afterlife in contemporary fiction, these disembodied visions are unlikely to outlive Maltby's long-overdue postmodern critique." — Joseph Tabbi, coeditor of Reading Matters: Narrative in the New Media Ecology

"A feast for the intellect—Maltby parades one insightful observation after another, launching connections in unexpected directions and circling back to the main target of his 'postmodern critique.' His analysis foregrounds chiefly the 'ideological function' of visionarism, that is, the 'false consciousness' paradoxically induced during instances of 'illumination.' But Maltby is also aware that in cases such as Alice Walker's similar moments can activate a 'critical function.'" — Christian Moraru, author of Rewriting: Postmodern Narrative and Cultural Critique in the Age of Cloning