Publication of the Month: December 2023

MFS – Modern Fiction Studies

Tired, depressed girl sleeping under pillow on sofa in the living room. Woman hide feeling sad or anxiety and problem with depression, mental health and fatigue or fear on couch in the lounge

This paper addresses an aspect of failure that I am calling “shared unshareability.” Highlighting this aspect of failure runs counter to the communitarian contour that “failure studies” and recent affect theory tend to give to contemporary understanding of failure, but it brings us to the following reckoning: that even though failure can be a common phenomenon, there is always something of failure that affects only the personal, that never leaves the personal.

Librairie Mollat, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

I argue that articulating failure’s “shared unshareability” allows us to come to terms with the irreducibility of failure; it also helps us understand why some of us would want to keep the sense of failure to ourselves. In this paper, I will elucidate failure’s “shared unshareability” through a selection of Yiyun Li’s texts, which deal with the failure to want to live, and which further show how melodrama and writing are also implicated.


Goh, Irving Tong Meng. 'Shared Unshareability, or the Melodrama of Living on after Failure in Yiyun Li.' MFS - Modern Fiction Studies. 2023.

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