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Practices of HopeLiterary Criticism in Disenchanted Times$
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Christopher Castiglia

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479818273

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479818273.001.0001

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I Like America

(p.27) 1 Nation
Practices of Hope

Christopher Castiglia

NYU Press

Taking the Cold War state to be the origin of diffused suspicion, abstract enemies, and totalizing explanations, this chapter contends that contemporary ideology critique—based on the same dispositions—melancholically reproduces rather than challenges Cold War epistemologies. As an alternative, the chapter offers the practice of hope Granville Hicks and Constance Rourke developed around the empty signifiers nation, exceptionalism, and activism, concepts most often targeted by New Americanists (and New Historicists in general). Hicks argued for two Americas, one synonymous with capitalism and hence worthy of critique, and the other based on local communities that use nationhood to organize against capitalism and the models of national exceptionalism it requires. For Hicks, patriotism is an organizing concept for the economically disadvantaged majority who are weakened by their denied access to rhetorics of national belonging. Constance Rourke, turning to folkways that transform European culture into something distinctly American, focused on the specificity of cultures produced by distinctive communities within the United States, yet she used the particularity of cultural formations as the basis, rather than simply a renunciation, of national identity.

Keywords:   nation, suspicion, exceptionalism, folkways, capitalism

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