Latent Destinies: Cultural Paranoia and Contemporary U.S. Narrative

Latent Destinies: Cultural Paranoia and Contemporary U.S. Narrative

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Duke University Press Books

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Latent Destinies: Cultural Paranoia and Contemporary U.S. Narrative

Latent Destinies examines the formation of postmodern sensibilities and their relationship to varieties of paranoia that have been seen as widespread in this century. Despite the fact that the Cold War has ended and the threat of nuclear annihilation has been dramatically lessened by most estimates, the paranoia that has characterized the period has not gone away. Indeed, it is as if—as O'Donnell suggests—this paranoia has been internalized, scattered, and reiterated at a multitude of sites: Oklahoma City, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Bosnia, the White House, the United Nations, and numerous other places.

O'Donnell argues that paranoia on the broadly cultural level is essentially a narrative process in which history and postmodern identity are negotiated simultaneously. The result is an erasure of historical temporality—the past and future become the all-consuming, self-aware present. To explain and exemplify this, O'Donnell looks at such books and films as Libra, JFK, The Crying of Lot 49, The Truman Show, Reservoir Dogs, Empire of the Senseless, Oswald's Tale, The Executioner's Song, Underworld, The Killer Inside Me, and Groundhog Day. Organized around the topics of nationalism, gender, criminality, and construction of history, Latent Destinies establishes cultural paranoia as consonant with our contradictory need for multiplicity and certainty, for openness and secrecy, and for mobility and historical stability.

Demonstrating how imaginative works of novels and films can be used to understand the postmodern historical condition, this book will interest students and scholars of American literature and cultural studies, postmodern theory, and film studies.

About the Author:
Patrick O'Donnell is Professor and Chair of the Department of English at Michigan State University. He is author of Echo Chambers: Figuring the Voice in Modern Narrative

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822325871
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 10/27/2000
Series: New Americanists
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents


Entry: The Time of Paranoia

1. Postmodernity and the Symptom of Paranoia
The Sympton of Paranoia

Paranoia and History: Latent Destiny

Postmodern Temporalities

2. Headshots: The Theater of Paranoia
Branch-Work: Libra

Stone’s Oedipus: JFK

Performing Character: Oswald’s Tale

3. Engendering Paranoia
The Point of the Cry: The Crying of Lot 49

The Umbra of Difference: The Shadow Knows

Exposing Paranoia: Empire of the Senseless

4. Criminality and Paranoia
The Voice of Paranoia: The Executioner’s Song

The Cultural Logic of Paranoia: The Killer Inside Me

Men in Black: Reservoir Dogs

Exit: Under History: Underworld



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