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Thursday, April 4, 2013

More Exceptionalism

Right after I wrote that last post I got this email:
In what ways does literature reinforce, contest, and amend the discourse of American exceptionalism? Exceptionalism in its simplest form refers to a range of nationalist beliefs that together locate the United States as exemplary in relation to other nation-states. Although not coined until 1929 and not popularized until the postwar period, exceptionalism appears in different forms throughout American history, from John Winthrop’s “city upon a hill” to Harry Truman’s “leader of the free world” to, most recently, George W. Bush’s “nation with a mission.” The latter’s declaration of the ongoing Global War on Terror in September 2001 has provoked further debate among scholars on the enduring legacy of exceptionalist claims.

Yet, despite interest among political scientists and cultural critics, American exceptionalism remains an under-theorized subject within literary studies. This special issue of LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory thus considers the place of literature in the past and present debates surrounding US exceptionalist thinking. If, as Donald Pease argues, exceptionalism maintains “structures of disavowal,” through what strategies might authors complicate these structures? When, on the other hand, does literature endorse exceptionalist nationalism? In what ways does exceptionalism inform literary production and criticism?

The editors encourage the submission of essays that theorize American exceptionalism in combination with clear and engaging textual analysis. Submissions should be between 5,000 and 10,000 words in length and formatted according to MLA Style. Please send manuscripts and 200-word abstracts to Guest Editor Joseph Darda at litjourn@yahoo.com.
This call for papers is tempting for me. I would point out that American exceptionalism is, in fact, a literary concept in the first place. I'm glad to see that the editor sees the concept as "undertheorized," because that means more remains to be done. My contribution would be on exceptionalist discourses within the counter-culture, not on the stereotypically right-wing uses of the concept.

3 comments:

profacero said...

I think you are becoming yet smarter. I don't mean to say you were not smart before, I just mean you seem to be on some sort of high curve at the moment. It's very interesting to watch.

Jonathan said...

Immodestly, I agree that I have been peaking recently. I am constantly coming up with ideas that should have been obvious to me long ago. It's a fun process.

If I can return the compliment, reading your blog and comments on mine has been a constant spur and inspiration. I just had dinner with Jill Kuhnheim, Vicky Unruh, and Susan Martin-Marquez, so I feel very privileged to get to know smart people who make me feel smarter all the time.

Jonathan said...

By implying that American exceptionalism is itself exceptional (the only exceptionalism in the world) the call for papers is an example of AE.