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Aliens Among Us: Fascism and Narrativity Elana Gomel This world is not this world. Auschwitz survivor, quoted in Robert Jay Lifton's The Nazi Doctors Apocalypse Now The putative "death of history" does not mean the death of historical narrative ; rather, it indicates a proliferation of competing stories, "the fragmentation of grand narratives into little narratives" (Currie 107). A sort of pseudo-Darwinian evolution occurs among these "little narratives," each attempting to capture the vacant throne of the master narrative. This evolution is a political process, taking place in the arena of power, and each "little narrative" is an ideology-in-the-making. Fredric Jameson's concept of the "ideology of the form" assumes a genre is a repository of a Weltanschauung that accrues to narrative structures through the process of ideological "sedimentation." But his theory implies that the reverse is also true: ideology possesses a narrative dimension. Each would-be master narrative is a story, offering a paradigm of meaning and coherence in a complex social reality. The appeal of an ideology must be understood in terms not only of concatenations of social and economic factors but also in terms of specific narrative pleasures. Thus, it is possible to speak of the aesthetics of an ideology and even of its genre. JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 30.1 (Winter 2000): 127-162. Copyright O 2000 by JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory. 128 JNT Of all twentieth-century political ideologies, the one primarily conceptualized in terms of its aesthetics is fascism. Since Walter Benjamin's famous definition of fascism as "the introduction of aesthetics into political life" (241), the conjunction of art and genocide has been the subject of a lively debate. But, following the painterly tastes of the Fuhrer himself, studies of fascist aesthetics have focused on the visual arts. Speer's monumental monstrosities, the exhibitions of "degenerate" art, and the overwhelming theatricality of the Nuremberg rallies have been adduced to illustrate Benjamin's cryptic maxim. However, a distinction should be made between the aesthetic apparatus of the fascist state and the inner structure of fascist ideology. The state is dead and buried; the ideology is alive, as even a cursory glance at the numerous neo-Nazi sites on the Internet will confirm. Exiled from history, the Third Reich takes over popular mythology. Sixty years after its defeat, it still generates a torrent of images and words. The heroine of Henry Rider Haggard's fantasy She claims her empire is of the imagination. At the brink of the new millenium we sometimes seem to be living in the Reich of the imagination. Dispossessed of political clout, neo-Nazism has at its disposal only stories . But these stories are still powerful enough to send a gun-toting loner on a rampage of killing or, insidiously, to sway an electorate. This power must be accounted for. The narrative appeal of fascism, if considered at all, has been generally linked to literary modernism. In this essay I want to suggest an alternative narrative model of fascism that locates its survival in the matrix of (post)modern popular culture. This model focuses on the analogies between science fiction and fantasy and the master-narrative of fascism.1 While the nexus of fascism/modernism is supported by historical record, it cannot account for the continuing survival of neo-Nazi political fantasies.2 If, as Paul Morrison claims, "fascism is predicated on the substitution of an aesthetic consolation for the exercise of real economic power," this consolation is not limited to the restricted readership of Wyndham Lewis or Louis-Ferdinand Celine (10). No social group is immune to fascism's fascination. Thus, we have to entertain the possibility that the narrative of fascism is much more central to (post)modera culture than we would like to believe.3 Moreover, a narrative study of fascism must take into account the specificity of fascist violence, which is different both in Aliens Among Us 129 kind and in scope from the violence employed by other authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. The coincidence between the present surge of interest in the Third Reich and the millenium is not accidental. Fascism is a millenarian ideology . Historian Roger Griffin defines the irreducible...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9248
Print ISSN
1549-0815
Pages
pp. 127-162
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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