- Introduction:Imagining Crisis in Twenty-First-Century American Literature and Media
The collection of articles gathered in this thematic issue is the second of a two-issue volume exploring crisis narratives in the twenty-first-century United States: Twenty-First-Century American Crises: Reflections, Representations, Transformations. Issue one (SLI, vol. 50, no. 1, Spring 2017) focused on the representation of historical crisis narratives, memorialization, and the examination of migrant traces in museums. It also highlighted the role of civil actors and social movements whose actions are currently revitalizing urban and rural spaces across the nation, such as Native American water protectors and Black Lives Matter. Finally, it considered fictional interventions that have explored human and post-human relations after catastrophe within the literary domain. Looking for crisis symptoms and symbols beyond the nation and also within itself, issue two complements the first set of contributions, focusing instead on literary and media responses to the new crisis scenarios that are redefining the American narrative imagination in the new millennium. The representations of crisis that are tackled in this second issue are broad in genre and scope, as they include recent novels, plays, films, and also TV series, but they all share a central idea: contemporary crises cross into the personal and the collective threads of national preoccupations and more intimate manifestations of such crises. Additionally, these literary and media texts engage feelings of bereavement, environmental destruction, racism, male-abuse, and xenophobia while they strategically open creative sites of struggle and resistance through unexpected gestures, symbols, and spaces.
As we pointed out in our introductory essay in the first issue, "Introduction: Re/presentations of Crisis in Twenty-First-Century US Literature and Culture," our general understanding of crisis is historically grounded and articulated around the idea of epochal transition. Recent crises, indeed, signal a sociopolitical and ideological realignment that was "triggered by a heightened sense of global/local awareness and historical urgency" at the turn of the twentieth century (viii). This turning-point, this moment of "difficulty, insecurity, and suspense," is thus not presented as new, but as a logical descendant of prior crises of (post/)modernity and [End Page v] their unresolved outcomes at the sociopolitical, economic, ethical, and personal levels ("Crisis").
Along with Roitman, we also argue that, in narratives of crisis, the term "crisis" both enables and determines a specific perspective and point of view—where crisis is usually posited as a frame of reference aimed at shaping our experience of reality through the crisis account that records it. Thus, it is important to acknowledge that crisis has indeed become a media buzzword, a marketable tag and, as Reinhart Koselleck points out, one that is "used rigorously in only a few scholarly or scientific contexts" (397).1 Roitman goes further in her assessment and claims that allusions to crisis have become the most common and most pervasive qualifiers of contemporary historical conditions: thus, "crisis texts are a veritable industry" (3).
Although we are aware that our set of contributions are, to some extent, feeding such a crisis industry, we also believe that through their close and poignant inspection of specific instances of crisis in the contemporary United States, the articles that follow can also play a part in the unveiling of such a crisis paradigm—as they raise crucial questions, generate nuanced reflections, and function as a magnifying lens that may shed more light over the conflictive times we inhabit. Inasmuch as the roots of the word crisis in the Greek verb Krino—which can be translated as "to 'separate' (part, divorce), to 'choose,' to 'judge,' to 'decide'; as a means of 'measuring oneself,' to 'quarrel,' or to 'fight'"—"created a … broad spectrum of meanings," it is not surprising that the semantic potential and metaphorical flexibility at the core of the word should shape its intrinsic relationship with the scrutiny proper of criticism (Koselleck 358). These articles, in that respect, carve paths that may help us retrieve the lost connections between knowledge and empowerment or may contribute new forms of critical resistance. As Spanish philosopher Marina Garcés explains in her most recent work, Nueva...