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Shock and Awe
American Exceptionalism and the Imperatives of the Spectacle in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
William V. Spanos



Re-Mapping the Transnational: A Dartmouth Series in American Studies

Dartmouth College Press
2013 • 240 pp. 6 x 9"
Literary Criticism - American / American Studies

$40.00 Paperback, 978-1-61168-462-9
$85.00 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-461-2

$39.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-463-6

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.



American exceptionalism, global power, and Mark Twain

Inspired by the foreign policy entanglements of recent years, William V. Spanos offers a dramatic interpretation of Twain’s classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, providing a fresh assessment of American exceptionalism and the place of a global America in the American imaginary. Spanos insists that Twain identifies with his protagonist, particularly in his defining use of the spectacle, and thus with an American exceptionalism that uncannily anticipates the George W. Bush administration’s normalization of the state of exception and the imperial policy of “preemptive war,” unilateral “regime change,” and “shock and awe” tactics. Equally stimulating is Spanos’s thoroughly original ontology of American exceptionalism and imperialism and his tracing of these forces, through a chronological examination of Twain studies and criticism over the past century.

As an examination of an overlooked text, and a critical history of American studies from its origins in the nation-oriented Myth and Symbol school of the Cold War era to its present globalizing or transnationalizing perspective, Shock and Awe will appeal to a broad audience of American literature scholars and beyond.

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Endorsements:

“In his new book, William V. Spanos continues his imaginative assault upon the legacy of American exceptionalism. He reads Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court contrapuntally, as equally a celebration and a send-up of America’s myth of being the paradise of the latter days. Shock and Awe is an instant classic of rethinking the transnational turn in New American Studies and, more generally, represents the renewal of literary study in our benighted age.”
—Daniel T. O’Hara, professor of English and Inaugural Mellon Term Professor of Humanities at Temple University, and author of Narrating Demons, Transformative Texts: Rereading Genius in Mid-Century Modern Fictional Memoir

“This is ostensibly a book about a single novel by Mark Twain. But it is much more than that. The impressive theoretical investigation of “shock and awe” tactics presented here is far-reaching. Spanos argues with great lucidity that this politico-military ontology, seemingly a recent phenomenon, not only extends across the most important sites of cultural and political production currently impacting our historical occasion, but also, and perhaps more importantly, has its origins in the earliest foundations of America. Spanos’s reading of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court expands our frames of understanding and creatively engages, through an exemplary and ethical literary analysis, the most important of concerns—from the expansion of America in the nineteenth century, to the development of the institution of American studies and the new Transnational American Studies, to the theories of the “state of exception” as articulated by Agamben.”
—Robert P. Marzec, Purdue University



WILLIAM V. SPANOS is Distinguished Professor of Literature at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of numerous books and one of the founders of the journal boundary 2.






Fri, 21 Feb 2014 11:15:30 -0500