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Impasse & Genre in American Politics and Literature by Prof. George Shulman (NYU)

University Room: David T. McGovern Grand Salon (C-104)
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 18:30 to 20:30

The Center for Critical Democracy Studies invites you to a talk by Professor George Shulman of New York University entitled "Impasse & Genre in American Politics and Literature".

In his talk, George Shulman proposes that the most fruitful resources for understanding the historical impasse, national division, and political rhetoric of this moment can be found, not in texts formally canonized as "American political thought," but rather in the fictions of literary artists from Hawthorne and Melville to Faulkner, Ellison, Pynchon, and Morrison. To explore the assumptions, idioms, and narratives that structure American politics, the literature forgoes realist aesthetics; to dramatize instead the romances - of individual self-making, popular sovereignty, political freedom, and national exceptionality- that characterize American life. Using various genres of fabulation, literary fictions repeatedly show the grip of this romance and its consequences in tragedy, gothic horror, and absurdist farce.

Representing the return of what is repressed or disavowed by prevailing political languages, such fictions conjure what Phillip Roth once called "the American Berserk," while also dramatizing the meaning of the political. Shulman's talk proceeds by theorizing the genres characteristic of American politics, by linking the election of Donald Trump to structural and discursive forms of impasse, and then by suggesting the ways that literature can helps us of think beyond it.

George Shulman teaches Political Theory and American Studies at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. His first book, Radicalism and Reverence, concerned religion and politics during the English Revolution, and focused on Gerrard Winstanley. His second book, American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Politics (2008) was awarded the Eastman Prize for best book in Political Theory by the American Political Science Association. His current book project, Postmortem Effects: Theorizing (Beyond) Impasse, uses American literary art to conceive and address the impasse in American political life.