In light of the increasing politicization that can be observed within the discipline of American Studies in the U.S.—with its focus on race, class and gender—and the neglect of matters aesthetic that more often than not accompanies this phenomenon, canonized modernist texts have been cast under something close to a general suspicion. This development, however, has to be seen in the larger context of academic politics, which is provided in François Cusset’s recent book French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life in the United States (2008). In it, he diagnoses a split of French post-structuralism into two camps: a school of apolitical textual deconstruction and one of re-politicization based upon identity politics. With the help of a new reading of William Faulkner’s short story “Dry September,” I will argue that this split is both artificial and questionable. I will show that, far from being historically irrelevant or purely mandarin, the aesthetic complexity of modernist texts does not forego but actively addresses (if in a demiurgic fashion) the dangers involved in readings motivated by political agendas such as race and gender.


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pp. 22-33
Launched on MUSE
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