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Ars Americana, Ars Politica: Partisan Expression in Contemporary American Literature and Culture Paperback – Aug 10 2010

5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 221 pages
  • Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press (Aug. 10 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 077353766X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0773537668
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.5 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #803,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Ars Americana is fascinating and original - and the subject of political literature is endlessly interesting and important. Written with a certain verve which carries the reader along!" Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

"A provocative and energetic book that reaches out beyond academia in an attempt to define the nature of American political literature." Financial Times

"Peter Swirski has presented us with a soundly researched, passionate, and beautifully written work - a Jeremiad about other Jeremiads, and a powerful critique of American society and politics as reflected in American media and popular culture." Arthur As

About the Author

Peter Swirski is a professor of American studies at the University of Hong Kong, the author of From Lowbrow to Nobrow and editor of I Sing the Body Politic: History as Prophecy in Modern American Literature.

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Format: Paperback
Peter Swirski has once again done his magic ' turning what are commonly perceived as serious and high-threshold (not to say high-brow) subjects, namely politics and literature, into witty and humorous hot talks of the day. Forming the core of 'Ars Americana, Ars Politica' are five 'nobrow' political bestsellers which, in the author's opinion, even though they have made remarkable strides in opening America's eyes to their government, have as yet failed to receive the (popular) artistic recognition they deserve. Analyzing the books against the political background each was published in, 'Ars Americana' strives to reeducate American readers on how to appreciate the popular aesthetics of these partisan and politically influential works.

However, this landmark work by Swirski is more than just 'literary-critical'. Even more it is a 'history-critical study with a political stance'. By showing how the political leprosy these five works condemned ago are still relevant today, it leaves a resounding mark on readers' minds, provoking their awareness of current political abuses and idiocies.

Attempting to give readers a more systematic overview on how modern American politics has evolved'or in fact, how it has NOT evolved regardless of how many decades pass by'Ars Americana is explicitly organized chapter by chapter in chronological order. Representing the 60s is Wallace's 'The Man' which head-on challenged the status quo of white dominant society by creating a black president and putting him in America's most exquisite landmark of power, the Oval Office.
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Format: Paperback
I'm a long time fan of this scholar, so much so that since From Lowbrow to Nobrow I bought almost everything he wrote and recommended his books to colleagues in my departement. Every time professor Swirski writes a book that is eye opening on everything under the sky: American literature, history, politics, social issues, urban issues, crime, American society. I have a special liking for From Lowbrow to Nobrow which is in my eye the most original book ever although it addresses itself to a subject that is everywhere, viz popular litertature and culture. But just like nobody remarked on falling apples before Newton (if the orchard anecdote is not apocryphal, something I never found out) From Lowbrow to Nobrow took a step back from the obvious critiques of mass culture and genre fiction and from the voices that see nothing wrong with it, and delivered an original point of view on the rise of a new culture and a new literary formation "nobrow".
It's the same in Ars Americana. You may have heard about the Bush administration, about Michael Moore, about 'political' movies in Hollywood, about Nixon and Watergate, or Reagonomics, Howard Zinn, the Black Panthers, the LA riots of 1992, the news 'fakers', the right-of-Kaiser Fox, the one-party system that holds America in its unrelenting grip, and a million other things, but if you never knew what it was REALLY all about, how much truth there was in various and sometimes conflicting reports about them, and how much the myths that we are fed everyday under the pretense of national security, gross domestic product, free enterprise, and all other "we are the champions" rhetoric, are true. Well, now you can know it all, like one reviewer on the back cover says, since can check everything against Ars Americana.
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Format: Paperback
It is very difficult to describe any book which challenges one's thinking on every page and Professor Swirski's Ars Americana is such a book.
I have been hearing here and there about it so I was in a sense better prepared to follow it on a journey of political discovery as well as historical recovery, but all the same the magnitude of reference, the boldness of thinking, the willingness to pursue the historical evidence wherever it leads, and the sheer raciness of the prose which to my mind at least resembles investigative journalism more than any academic writing I am aware of, took my by surprise.
Chronologically, I was never aware of Irving Wallace (how quickly even the best known writers fade away) but now I am convinced that this pulp writer was onto something very daring politically when he wrote The Man.
I knew about the Black Panthers but the context in Ars Americana locates them, for example in juxtaposition with the Hamas, seems to be spot on.
Condon is famous for The Manchurian Candidate but I knew nothing of Death of a Politician (which I just ordered) which sounds to me like a great novel and fun to read. At least Professor Swirski makes it out to be even as he uses it to draw comparisons between Condon's leading character and Tricky Dicky Nixon. Reading this chapter was like reading about the Borgias.
Next is probably my favourite chapter on Parliament of Whores. It is hilarious, stripping the pants off our politicians and leaving them shivering in the cold in the harsh light of the truth!
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