Elevator fiction: Robert coover, colson whitehead, and the sense of infrastructure

Spencer Morrison*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article uncovers an overlooked yet crucial literary precursor for Colson Whithead’s The Intuitionist (1999), Robert Coover’s “The Elevator” (1967). In drawing attention to the many congruencies in Coover’s and Whitehead’s depictions of elevator infrastructure, I also use their works to suggest new interpretive and theoretical possibilities for the nascent literary-critical field of infrastructuralism. This field, I argue, offers scholars a salutary frame for discussing state formations in literature without an accompanying Foucauldian skepticism towards governmentality; however, its rhetoric effaces the bodily particularity and materiality of infrastructure’s diverse users. Coover’s and Whitehead’s fleshly elevators suggest possibilities for more inclusive political formations while nevertheless rooting these possibilities for change in particularities of embodiment as expressed by dynamics of felt sensation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-125
Number of pages25
JournalArizona Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


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