The Imaginary and Its Worlds collects essays that boldly rethink the imaginary as a key concept for cultural criticism. Addressing both the emergence and the reproduction of the social, the imaginary is ideally suited to chart the consequences of the transnational turn in American studies. Leading scholars in the field from the United States and Europe address the literary, social, and political dimensions of the imaginary, providing a methodological and theoretical groundwork for American studies scholarship in the transnational era and opening new arenas for conceptualizing formations of imaginary belonging and subjectivity. This important state-of-the-field collection will appeal to a broad constituency of humanists working to overcome methodological nationalism. The Imaginary and Its Worlds: An Introduction • LITERARY IMAGINARIES • Imagining Cultures: The Transnational Imaginary in Postrace America - Ramón Saldívar • The Necessary Fragmentation of the (U.S.) Literary-Cultural Imaginary - Lawrence Buell • Imaginaries of American Modernism - Heinz Ickstadt • SOCIAL IMAGINARIES • William James versus Charles Taylor: Philosophy of Religion and the Confines of the Social and Cultural Imaginaries - Herwig Friedl • The Shaping of We-Group Identities in the African American Community: A Perspective of Figurational Sociology on the Cultural Imaginary - Christa Buschendorf • Russia’s Californio Romance: The Other Shores of Whitman’s Pacific - Lene Johannessen • Form Games: Staging Life in the Systems Epoch - Mark Seltzer • POLITICAL IMAGINARIES • Real Toads - Walter Benn Michaels • Obama Unwound: The Romanticism of Victory and the Defeat of Compromise - Christopher Newfield • Barack Obama’s Orphic Mysteries - Donald E. Pease • Coda. The Imaginary and the Second Narrative: Reading as Transfer - Winfried Fluck • Contributors • Index
Johannes Voelz offers a critique of the New Americanists through a stimulating and original reexamination of the iconic figure of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Voelz argues against the prevailing tendency among Americanists to see Emerson as the product of an “all-pervasive scope of cultural power.” Instead he shows Emerson’s philosophy to be a deft response to the requirements of lecturing professionally at the newly built lyceums around the country. Voelz brings to light a fascinating organic relationship between Emerson’s dynamic style of thinking and the uplifting experience demanded by his public. This need for an audience-directed philosophy, the author argues, reveals the function of Emerson’s infamous inconsistencies on such issues as representation, identity, and nation. It also poses a major counter-argument to the New Americanists’ dim view of Emerson’s individualism and his vision of the private man in public. Challenging the fundamental premises of the New Americanists, this study is an important, even pathbreaking guide to the future of American studies.