The question "What is America?" has taken on new urgency. Weak Nationalisms explores the emotional dynamics behind that question by examining how a range of authors have attempted to answer it through nonfiction since the Second World War, revealing the complex and dynamic ways in which affects shape the literary construction of everyday experience in the United States. Douglas Dowland studies these attempts to define the nation in an eclectic selection of texts from writers such as Simone de Beauvoir, John Steinbeck, Charles Kuralt, Jane Smiley, and Sarah Vowell. Each of these texts makes use of synecdoche, and Weak Nationalisms shows how this rhetorical technique is variously driven by affects including curiosity, discontent, hopefulness, and incredulity. In exploring the function of synecdoche in the creative construction of the United States, Dowland draws attention to the evocative politics and literary richness of nationalism and connects critical literary practices to broader discussions involving affect theory and cultural representation.
Explores the complex and dynamic ways in which emotions shape the post-World War II writing of the United States and argues that reading these narratives for their affects is to read for the emotional work that takes place between the part and the whole.
Acknowledgments Introduction: Affected Readers in an Imagined Community 1. Moodiness: The Everyday America of Beauvoir's America Day by Day 2. Curiosity and Its Discontents: Steinbeck's Travels with Charley and America and Americans 3. Hopefulness: On the Road with Charles Kuralt 4. Incredulity: Reading Sarah Vowell Conclusion: Affected Critics, the Nation, and the Limits of Critique Source Acknowledgments Notes Bibliography Index
"In Weak Nationalisms, Douglas Dowland shows how largely a figure of speech-synecdoche-figures in the affective dimension of nationalism. . . . But where many studies of nationalism stress the obscured means through which these affective ties work, Dowland finds most interesting the 'unmediated, tactile, sensuous engagement with the emotions' evident in the nonfiction works he considers. With its interest in the persistence of national affect, Weak Nationalisms is a timely and important study."-Priscilla Wald, R. Florence Brinkley Professor of English at Duke University -- Priscilla Wald"How have citizens of the United States historically understood their relationship to the nation? The answer Weak Nationalisms gives is both elegantly specific and broadly compelling. This book is smart and timely. It draws out some of the most pressing issues Americans are currently tangling with in everyday life. It is an engaging, well-executed, and important book."-Rachel Greenwald Smith, author of Affect and American Literature in the Age of Neoliberalism -- Rachel Greenwald Smith"Weak Nationalisms makes visible a vibrant and underappreciated trajectory of literary nonfiction about the United States. Douglas Dowland effectively and persuasively presents the ways in which a range of writers negotiate a mode of nationalistic feeling that embraces core tenets of American liberalism, while resisting and questioning the hierarchies that we often associate with nationalism. The book offers a refreshing and timely reflection on the uses of 'weak nationalism.'"-Daniel Worden, author of Masculine Style: The American West and Literary Modernism -- Daniel Worden
University of Nebraska Press