ABSTRACT:

George Saunders's postmodern fiction serves as the exemplar for early twenty-first century American satire's new attention to affect, to empathy specifically, and the example afforded by his story collection Tenth of December (2013) allows us to delineate a potent strand of the postmodern satiric aesthetic in the new millennium. When we turn to the short fiction of Saunders, we find a curious reworking of the age-old satiric formula at the hands of a writer who shares most of postmodernism's abiding concerns, but who, unlike his twentieth-century peers, is in the end committed to a definable cumulative effect on readers that is unmistakably intended as moral and salutary. His fiction identifies vice and folly with withering exactitude; he does so in wildly imaginative and dramatic fictional worlds, but, rather than stories ending with the emergence of some amorphous sense of correction, Saunders's stories instead propose the empathetic development of his audience.

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