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Simone Sannio


Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Research Interests

  • Contemporary American fiction
  • Unfinished creative works
  • Literature and film/popular music
  • Ethnicity, migration and marginality



Freie Universität Berlin

Doctoral Candidate at the Graduate School of North American Studies


University of Bologna

Master’s Degree in Modern, Post-Colonial and Comparative Literatures

Thesis: “(Italian) American Literature from the Beat Generation to Don DeLillo: Postcolonial Traces?”


University of Florence

Bachelor's Degree in Languages, Literatures and Intercultural Studies

Thesis on the textual variants of William Faulkner's "Wash"



"The Book is Finished / Books Are Never Finished: Unending Narratives in Don DeLillo's Novels" (presented paper)

Narratives of Temporality: Continuities, Discontinuities, Ruptures

Robinson College, University of Cambridge


Co-Organizer and Moderator, 12th International GSNAS Conference

American Ambiguities: Is Now the Era of Our Disconsent?

John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

 "America Against the Plot: From 'Paranoid' Fiction to Post-Truth Reality" (presented paper)

Democracy and Disinformation in the Era of Trump

Clinton Institute for American Studies, University College Dublin

Hated Adversaries: Unfinished Works of Art in Contemporary American Fiction  (Dissertationsprojekt)

Dissertation in Literatur

Mentoring Team:
First supervisor: Prof. Ulla Haselstein
Second supervisor: Prof. Martin Klepper
Third supervisor: Prof. Frank Kelleter

“Unfinishedness” as an aesthetic principle is not a new issue in literature and art, nor something specific to the United States. On the contrary, unfinished creative works of all sorts have surfaced throughout the ages in every artistic field and all over the world, from Michelangelo’s non finito sculptures to the Romantic fragment poem. At the same time, however, the development of the American novel in the last few decades provides a particularly interesting and relatively unexplored setting for the study of the “Literary Unfinished” (Stewart 2016). Since the mid-1980s, at least, more and more US writers have dealt with incompleteness in art as part of their novels. Recently, there has also been a clear surge in the general public's interest in unfinished creative works. Nevertheless, the recurrence of “unfinishedness” in contemporary America seems to have largely gone unnoticed by critics, and so far there are no specific studies about the current situation of unfinished fiction in the United States.

The historical and cultural context of my research will have the 1990s as its center. My main focus will be on a perceived shift between unfinished fiction and what I will call “unfinished metafiction”: that is, the passage from traditionally unfinished novels to finished novels that, however, include within their plots fictitious unfinished texts or other unfinished works of art as media of textual self-reflection. This particular literary form seems pretty much alive in the United States, if one considers the large corpus of contemporary novels including incomplete creative works: among them, I will focus, in particular, on Don DeLillo’s Mao II (1991), Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys (1995), Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock (1993), and Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist (1999).

My argument is that in contemporary America the unfinished novel has not at all disappeared: it has survived by changing in nature and scope, in accordance with other transformations undergone by US literature, culture, and society. In this respect, unfinished metafiction has not yet been thoroughly investigated as a literary form of its own, just as the potentialities of a comparison with actual archive material, or with similar forms in other arts and media, have not been fully explored. Moreover, it has not been spelled out enough that literary works – not unlike in music, film, and the fine arts – can be potentially complete and perfect in their unfinished and imperfect shape, thus aiming at the revaluation of an apparently flawed artistic form about which there is still much left unsaid.


Incompleteness, Fragments, Endings, Narrative Closure, Artistic Failure, Absence, Renunciation, Metafiction, Forms, 1990s


Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft