Utilizing Lacan's psychoanalytic theory and Zizek's philosophical adaption of it, this book brings into dialogue a series of modernist and postmodernist literary works, films, and critical theory that are concerned with defining America. Ahmed Elbeshlawy demonstrates that how America is perceived in certain texts reveals not only the idealization or condemnation of it, but an imago, or constructed image of the perceiver as well. In turn, texts which particularly focus on demonstrating how other texts about America communicate an untrustworthy message themselves communicate an unreliable message, inventing and reinventing a series of imagos of America. These imagos refer to both idealized and deformed images of America constructed by the perceivers of America. The first part of this book is concerned with modernist perceptions of America, and includes discussion of Adorno, Benjamin, Kafka, D. H. Lawrence, as well as Emerson and Seymour Martin Lipset. The second part is dedicated to postmodernist representations of America, focusing on texts by Edward Said, Ihab Hassan, Susan Sontag, David Shambaugh and Charles W. Brooks, and films including Lars von Trier's Dogville and D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation.
’…a compact, well-organised guide to modernism and postmodernism. The interdisciplinary chapters test and extend a variety of methodological approaches to literature and film. …I recommend this book to scholars and students who are interested in transatlantic literary studies and/or Lacanian psychoanalysis.’ American Studies Today ’…through his psychoanalytic interrogation of America [Elbeshlawy] articulates some interesting theories about what modernist and postmodernist America could be. And while the idea of a plurality of Americas is not new, Elbeshlawy provides significant evidence for this idea. In addition, his readings of core modern and postmodern texts provide key insight into the continued relevance of Lacan and Zizek with regard to current American studies.’ Journal of American Studies ’…Elbeschlawy’s study raises a number of thoughtful questions about how the idea of America has shaped (and continues to shape) both the thought as well as the subjectivity of many of its most prominent critics.’ Amerikastudien
Contents: Introduction: approaching America; Part I Modernist Perceptions: The epical American self and the psychotic phenomenon; D.H. Lawrence's radical criticism of America; The fiction of the castrating power of America: Kafka's dream; Adorno's fascist America. Part II Postmodernist Representations: America: a 'stereotype' and a 'beautiful imperialist'; America: the invincible and the surreal; Dogville: Lars Von Trier's desexualized America; Said's America: America's Said; Hassan's radical identification with America; Coda: America as an unrealized idea; Works cited; Filmography; Index.