Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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The Imaginary and Its Worlds: An Introduction

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pp. vii-xxviii

This collection of essays is dedicated to conceptualizing the imaginary as a critical tool for the study of American literature and culture after the “transnational turn.” Without a doubt, the “transnational turn” (a term coined by Shelley Fisher Fishkin) is here, and here to stay: the field of “transnational American studies” ...

Part I: Literary Imaginaries

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1 | Imagining Cultures: The Transnational Imaginary in Postrace America

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pp. 3-22

In this essay I address the matter of the “cultural imaginary” and of the significant contributions to our understanding of it in the work of Winfried Fluck in two contexts: in relation to the question of literary form and in relation to history. Doing so also allows me explain the reasons for what I take to be a radical turn in twenty-first-century fiction ...

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2 | The Necessary Fragmentation of the (U.S.) Literary-Cultural Imaginary

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pp. 23-41

Insofar as the idea—or myth—of distinctive national cultures still maintains any credible explanatory power, to what extent does it reinforce a view of (U.S.) national literary history as distinctive and/or coherent? That is the basic question with which this essay wrestles. I argue that although the explanatory power is not trivial, ...

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3 | Imaginaries of American Modernism

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pp. 42-64

In American literary and cultural history, “modernism” has been considered a phenomenon of uncertain status—even after it was academically institutionalized by the New Criticism of the 1950s. On the one hand, it had long been considered a provincial extension of European developments, since even its leading protagonists— ...

Part II: Social Imaginaries

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4 | William James versus Charles Taylor: Philosophy of Religion and the Confines of the Social and Cultural Imaginaries

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pp. 67-83

Nietzsche’s diagnosis of the modern existential condition as a continuous loss of the once cosmic centrality of human existence appears to be accompanied by a complementary and opposing tendency of growing anthropocentrism and sociocentrism. The anthropocentric reductionism in the nineteenth-century interpretation of religious phenomena ...

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5 | The Shaping of We-Group Identities in the African American Community: A Perspective of Figurational Sociology on the Cultural Imaginary

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pp. 84-106

Benedict Anderson’s concept of the nation as “imagined community” is based on an understanding of the relation of society and individual which has been very common in Western thinking since the Renaissance. As the sociologist Norbert Elias explains in his study The Society of Individuals, we have come to refer ...

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6 | Russia’s Californio Romance: The Other Shores of Whitman’s Pacific

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pp. 107-126

On the morning of March 28, 1806, an envoy of the Russian American Company, Nikolai Petrovitch Rezanov, decided to ignore the Spanish ban on trade with foreign ships and sailed right into the harbor of San Francisco. “Knowing the suspicious nature of the Spanish government,” he wrote, ...

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7 | Form Games: Staging Life in the Systems Epoch

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pp. 127-174

A modern society comes to itself by staging its own conditions. A modern world is a self-conditioning and self-reporting one. If, prior to the nineteenth century, society could not describe itself, now it cannot stop describing itself. Or, as the great science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem neatly put it, “In the Eolithic age there were no seminars ...

Part III: Political Imaginaries

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8 | Real Toads

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pp. 177-191

The real toads of my title are first and foremost the ones invented by Marianne Moore in her poem “Poetry,” living in “imaginary gardens” and, eventually, abandoned there by Moore when she cut the poem to three lines: “Poetry / I too dislike it / Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in it, after all, a place for the genuine” (Moore). ...

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9 | Obama Unwound: The Romanticism of Victory and the Defeat of Compromise

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pp. 192-214

Barack Obama’s 2008 mandate was crushed by the midterm elections of 2010, in which his party lost control of the House of Representatives and of state legislatures and governorships all over the country. This reversal did not prevent his re-election in 2012, but he did not win decisively or broadly enough for a renewed mandate to be assumed. ...

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10 | Barack Obama’s Orphic Mysteries

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pp. 215-236

This essay constitutes an effort to explain the state fantasy with which Barack Obama hegemonized an alternative to the biopolitical settlement normalizing George W. Bush’s global war on terror. In what follows, I argue that Obama has not displaced but presupposed Bush’s homeland state of exception ...

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Coda: The Imaginary and the Second Narrative: Reading as Transfer

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pp. 237-264

One of the most puzzling aspects about literary criticism and literary scholarship is that critics and scholars never seem to be able to agree on the meaning and significance of a literary text. This strange phenomenon is by no means restricted to notoriously difficult, ambiguous, or enigmatic texts like Hamlet or The Turn of the Screw. ...

Contributors

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pp. 265-268

Index

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pp. 269-272