Why do we so often speak of books as living, flourishing, and dying? And what is at stake when we do so? This habit of treating books as people, or personifying texts, is rampant in postwar American culture. In this bracing study, Amy Hungerford argues that such personification has become pivotal to our contemporary understanding of both literature and genocide. Personified texts, she contends, play a particularly powerful role in works where the systematic destruction of entire ethnic groups is at issue.
Hungerford examines the implications of conflating texts with people in a broad range of texts: Art Spiegelman's Maus; Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451; the poetry of Sylvia Plath; Binjamin Wilkomirski's fake Holocaust memoir Fragments; and the fiction of Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Don DeLillo. She considers the ethical consequences of this trend in the work of recent and contemporary theorists and literary critics as well, including Cathy Caruth, Jacqueline Rose, Jacques Derrida, and Paul de Man. What she uncovers are fundamentally flawed ideas about representation that underwrite and thus undermine powerful and commonly accepted claims about literature and identity. According to Hungerford, the personification of texts is ethically corrosive and theoretically unsound. When we exalt the literary as personal and construe genocide as less a destruction of human life than of culture, we esteem memory over learning, short-circuit debates about cultural change, lend credence to the illusion or metaphysics of presence, and limit our conception of literature and its purpose.
Ultimately, The Holocaust of Texts asks us to think more deeply about the relationship between reading, experience, and memorialization. Why, for instance, is it more important to remember acts of genocide than simply to learn about them? If literary works are truly the bearers of ontology, then what must be our conduct toward them? Considering difficult questions such as these with fresh logic, Hungerford offers us an invigorating work, one that will not only interest scholars of American and postwar literature, but students of the Holocaust and critical theory as well.
"A solid contribution to Rousseau studies. It has the special merit of carefully and thoroughly analyzing several important writings of Rousseau on war and on international relations."
--Hilail Gildin, Queens College, C.U.N.Y.
For more than two centuries, the political writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau have helped shape many different responses to historical experience. While today's readers are aware of Rousseau's contemporary significance, his writings on war and peace have been almost completely ignored. This book offers a fresh interpretation of two of Rousseau's little-known works: his unfinished "The State of War" and his summary and critique of the Abbe de Saint-Pierre's Project for Perpetual Peace. Starting with an account of her discovery of the original page sequence of Rousseau's manuscript on "The State of War," Grace G. Roosevelt explores his theory of international conflict and explains his alternative approaches to the problem of securing peace. She brings out the important connections between Rousseau's theory of international politics and his principles of education, arguing throughout for the continuing relevance of his ideas.
Roosevelt's main contention is that, when studied in relation to his works on politics and education, Rousseau's writings on war and peace provide the modern reader with a realistic analysis of the war system and a normative vision of the possibilities for peace. In discussing his principles of education, Roosevelt suggests that Rousseau's writings challenge us to confront the question of whether educational systems should aim to create citizens of a particular state or citizens of the world.
The book includes full translations, by the author, of Rousseau's unpublished manuscript on "The State of War" and of his forty-page "Summary" and "Critique" of the Project for Perpetual Peace.
A Trauma Artist examines how O'Brien's works variously rewrite his own traumatization during the war in Vietnam as a never-ending fiction that paradoxically "recovers" personal experience by both recapturing and (re)disguising it. Mark Heberle considers O'Brien's career as a writer through the prisms of post-traumatic stress disorder, postmodernist metafiction, and post-World War II American political uncertainties and public violence.
Based on recent conversations with O'Brien, previously published interviews, and new readings of all his works through 1999, this book is the first study to concentrate on the role and representation of trauma as the central focus of all O'Brien's works, whether situated in Vietnam, in post-Vietnam America, or in the imagination of protagonists suspended between the two. By doing so, Heberle redefines O'Brien as a major U.S. writer of the late twentieth century whose representations of self-damaging experiences and narratives of recovery characterize not only the war in Vietnam but also relationships between fathers and sons and men and women in the post-traumatic culture of the contemporary United States.