The National Security Sublime: On the Aesthetics of Government Secrecy, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The National Security Sublime

On the Aesthetics of Government Secrecy, 1st Edition

By Matthew Potolsky


184 pages | 20 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367208912
pub: 2019-03-26
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Why do recent depictions of government secrecy and surveillance so often use images suggesting massive size and scale: gigantic warehouses, remote black sites, numberless security cameras? Drawing on post-War American art, film, television, and fiction, Matthew Potolsky argues that the aesthetic of the sublime provides a privileged window into the nature of modern intelligence, a way of describing the curiously open secret of covert operations. The book tracks the development of the national security sublime from the Cold War to the War on Terror, and places it in a long history of efforts by artists and writers to represent political secrecy.

Table of Contents

1. Defining the National Security Sublime

2. Toward an Aesthetics of Government Secrecy

3. The Genesis and Structure of the National Security Sublime

4. The Sublime Under the War on Terror

5. The Secret Without a Subject

About the Author

Matthew Potolsky is Professor of English at the University of Utah.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Espionage and Culture

Routledge Studies in Espionage and Culture is an interdisciplinary series with a transnational focus that seeks to generate new insights into the connections between espionage and culture. The twentieth century saw the emergence and growth of the espionage genre in literature, popular fiction, cinema and television. This series explores all aspects of that genre, its audiences and its relationship with the "reality" of espionage.

The series investigates representations of the intelligence world and how we interact with it, using an international scope to compare cultures of espionage between nations, and also examine how works of culture are received internationally. It blends several disciplines including cultural studies, history, literature and film studies, and covers topics such as the spy novel, films, television shows, documentaries, games, music, fashion and materiality. The series is also concerned with political cultures and the everyday lives within the organisations themselves, as well as wider considerations of surveillance culture.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Social History