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The Underside of Politics

Global Fictions in the Fog of the Cold War

Sorin Radu Cucu

Publication Year: 2013

This book argues that during the Cold War modern political imagination was held captive by the split between two visions of universality reedom in the West versus social justice in the East by a culture of secrecy that tied national identity to national security. Examining post- 1945 American and Eastern European interpretive novels in dialogue with each other and with postfoundational democratic theory, The Underside of Politics brings to light the ideas, forces, and circumstances that shattered modernity's promises (such as secularization, autonomy, and rights) on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In this context, literary fictions by Kundera and Roth, Popescu and Coover, and DeLillo become global as they reveal the trials of popular sovereignty in the "fog of the Cold War" and trace the elements around which its world discourse or global picture is constructed: the atom bomb, Stalinist show trials, anticommunist propaganda, totalitarian terror, secret military operations, and political targeting.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-10

“Writing, the test of the political” (Écrire: à l’épreuve du politique)—this enigmatic phrase, coined in 1992 by the French political philosopher Claude Lefort, inspires, among possible intellectual reflections on its meaning, the main topic of this book: the shift of paradigms from political interpretations of literary texts to literary interpretations ...

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Introduction. Writing the Cold War: Literature, Democracy and the Global Polis

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pp. 11-46

Can literature and art mediate our relation to the historical present? If we want to be contemporary, we cannot avoid this question. At the end of the twentieth century, we witnessed an “epochal threshold”: a picture of the world ended and a new one (the end of History) timidly emerged, only to be violently replaced by new representations of the global era, ...

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1 / Kafka and the Cold War: Fantasies of the Invisible Master

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pp. 47-73

Orson Welles’s 1962 adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial presents Joseph K.’s wanderings in the labyrinth of a perversely enigmatic justice system as the setting for a paranoid conspiracy. In this process of literary adaptation, the skin of the Kafkaesque fiction is stretched to cover the anxiety signified by the Cold War moment in the history of political...

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2 / The Vicissitudes of Popular Sovereignty

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pp. 74-115

In Milan Kundera’s The Joke (1967), Cold War themes—such as the expansion of Soviet-style Communism in Eastern Europe—make up a distant yet relevant context. The novel describes how the fairy tale of the Communist dream transforms into a tragic farce of historical proportions whose protagonists are common people with specific roles...

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3 / National Security in the Age of the Global Picture

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pp. 116-155

Democratic governments might become violent and cruel at times of great The book [The Public Burning] is continually metamorphosing as though The assumption that, in the second half of the twentieth century, literature was able to engage the politico-historical dimensions of our age appears in literary criticism as the central element of the shif_t from ...

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4 / All Power to the Networks!

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pp. 156-205

The philosophical interrogation of the political amounts to theoretical narratives that typically look at modern society through the lens of paradigmatic cases: democracy in Europe and America as forms of the post-metaphysical (i.e., properly historical) society but also Soviet totalitarianism...

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Concluding Remarks: Transnational American Studies in the Fog of the Cold War

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pp. 206-212

What is the significance of the Cold War antagonism between democracy and totalitarianism to the political modernity of the global present? An answer to this question, this book has argued, is formulated in post-1945 American and Eastern European interpretive novels. Being exemplary literary fictions about “writing at the pressure of the political,” these ...


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pp. 213-248


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pp. 249-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780823254347
E-ISBN-10: 0823254348

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013