Portents of the Real: A Primer for Post-9/11 America

Overview

The shock and horror that gripped America on September 11, 2001, has given way to a culture of pathological worry. Ignited by the terrorist attacks, anxiety has been fueled by the nation’s official response, which sanctioned a narrative good vs. evil, the suppression of intellectual debate and the political expediency of keeping the citizenry in a constant state of fear. Snipers in the capital, the government in bunkers, flag euphoria and anthrax hysteria, torture in Abu Ghraib and a stuntman who survived Niagra ...

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Overview

The shock and horror that gripped America on September 11, 2001, has given way to a culture of pathological worry. Ignited by the terrorist attacks, anxiety has been fueled by the nation’s official response, which sanctioned a narrative good vs. evil, the suppression of intellectual debate and the political expediency of keeping the citizenry in a constant state of fear. Snipers in the capital, the government in bunkers, flag euphoria and anthrax hysteria, torture in Abu Ghraib and a stuntman who survived Niagra Falls – these are the nation’s portents, signs of the times in post-9/11 America. Portents of the Real examines culture to apprehend the foreboding political subtexts of a nation perpetually at war on terror.

Against an ever deepening climate of political repression and a journalistic landscape dominated by sensationalized controversy and historical forgetfulness, Susan Willis offers an astute analysis of the realities behind America’s cultural myths. The effect is both wry and unnerving.

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Editorial Reviews

Jean Baudrillard
“What we have here, then, is a political analysis, but one that goes beyond traditional critique and is more subtle and intelligent in that it ferrets out the weaknesses and identifies the fault lines of the system by an oblique approach that ultimately detects the ways in which that system destroys itself – with the torturer showing through the victim, the Real showing through in the appearance, in keeping with a set of rules that is both secret and fundamental. 'What goes around comes around.'”
Slavoj Zizek
“The lesson of Mao was right: revolution is, at its most radical, a cultural revolution. It is sad that, today, we have to learn this lesson from the neo-con Bush-men. However, Susan Willis's new book saves the critical credentials of cultural studies. Its analysis of 9/11 as a cultural phenomenon does not deal with an aspect which is less important than its directly political or military side – on the contrary, it strikes at the very heart of the ongoing struggle. This book is therefore a must for everybody who simply wants to understand what the hell is going on today. To ignore it means you want to persist in your blessed ignorance – at your own risk and peril!”
From the Publisher
“What we have here, then, is a political analysis, but one that goes beyond traditional critique and is more subtle and intelligent in that it ferrets out the weaknesses and identifies the fault lines of the system by an oblique approach that ultimately detects the ways in which that system destroys itself—with the torturer showing through the victim, the Real showing through in the appearance, in keeping with a set of rules that is both secret and fundamental. ‘What goes around comes around.’”—Jean Baudrillard

“The lesson of Mao was right: revolution is, at its most radical, a cultural revolution. It is sad that, today, we have to learn this lesson from the neo-con Bush-men. However, Susan Willis’s new book saves the critical credentials of cultural studies. Its analysis of 9/11 as a cultural phenomenon does not deal with an aspect which is less important than its directly political or military side—on the contrary, it strikes at the very heart of the ongoing struggle. This book is therefore a must for everybody who simply wants to understand what the hell is going on today. To ignore it means you want to persist in your blessed ignorance—at your own risk and peril!”—Slavoj Žižek

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844670239
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 6/23/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Willis’s previous works include A Primer for Daily Life, Specifying, and Inside the Mouse. She is Associate Professor of Literature at Duke University.

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Table of Contents

1 Old glory 11
2 Anthrax [actual symbol not reproducible] us 29
3 What goes around comes around 49
4 Only the shadow knows 71
5 The greatest show on earth 93
6 Quien Es Mas Macho? 113
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2009

    how Americans are dealing with ttheir fears after 9/11

    Willis has an exceptionally sharp eye for how the fears of Americans churned up by 9/11 are glossed over or disguised and thus mollified by elaborate symbolisms, specious hopes and optimism, and other exercises in delusion and denial. She not only has a sharp eye, but also ranges widely over popular culture for examples of this. Any reader will run across new instances of errant patriotism, infantile trust, political ignorance, and rational concerns mutated into mythic horrors. And for the generally familiar instances such as the Washington D. C. sniper murders and the anthrax scares, the author brings out new facets of these. Willis discloses what the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse reveals about aspects of American society and sees the values (e. g., the exclusionary social ideal of the white Protestant male) and activities of the Ku Klux Klan mirrored in the posturing, mores, and policies of the Bush White House. Surely controversial, but Willis's critique raises issues the country will have to deal with positively if it is to have a role of world leadership and stop the disintegration of the domestic social fabric.

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