Intermedial Acts of Worldmaking: Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

Eva Ulrike Pirker, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Vol. 41, No. 2 (Fall 2022), 267-283

This reading of Zadie Smith’s novel Swing Time centers on Smith’s ambivalent, or indeed self-conscious, strategy of approaching and creating worlds through writing. In their portrayal of a wide range of contemporary characters, their lifeworlds, and their predicaments, Smith’s works appear to be paradigmatic acts of literary worldmaking. This article explores the ways in which Smith simultaneously intervenes in such worldmaking. To this end, it examines Smith’s staging of an overtly contingent narrative situation as well as her multi-layered intermedial engagement with other artistic forms of expression, specifically dance. By describing camp practices on the diegetic level and employing them on the level of narration, Smith’s novel points us to the limitations of literary worldmaking rather than providing possibilities of undisturbed immersion and identification.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]