I miss you the most when you're here: The Chronotope of Fantastic Mourning in American Gods
Haverford College. Department of English
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Each text has a unique depiction of time and space, a particular way it leads its readers through narrative reality. This sensation of movement through time and space — referred to as a text’s chronotope — is often a product of genre conventions, and different genres tend to have radically different chronotopes. In reading Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods, one experiences a sensation of temporality that both draws upon the conventions of the fantasy genre(s), and is also created within the very refutation of these conventions and expectations. I argue that the sense of temporality in American Gods gives both reader and protagonist new ways to view loss and the experience of mourning by simultaneously reifying and rejecting conclusion itself. By incorporating different genres and conventions into its narrative, and then turning away from each genre’s expected conclusion at every turn, the novel gives the reader a sense of continuance even within its many moments of conclusion and ending. This utilization of different genre rhetorics, as well as the text’s treatment of death, loss, and inter-temporal conflict, creates a sense of chronotope that highlights the interchangeability of life and death, past and present, believer and believed-in. This chronotope is both uniquely fantastic, and uniquely tuned to the experience of mourning.