Ars Americana, Ars Politica

Ars Americana, Ars Politica: Partisan Expression in Contemporary American Literature and Culture

Peter Swirski
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 230
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt80bj0
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  • Book Info
    Ars Americana, Ars Politica
    Book Description:

    As partisan attacks have become increasingly bitter in American politics, contemporary culture has found ways to channel this outrage into the outrageous, responding with comedy and satire from both sides of the political spectrum. Ars Americana, Ars Politica cross-examines American politics, culture, and history by examining Irving Wallace’s The Man, Richard Condon’s Death of a Politician, P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores, Warren Beatty’s film Bulworth, and Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men to show how these popular artists have used soap-box partisanship and box-office artertainment to affect history.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8059-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction American Art, Political Art
    (pp. 3-25)

    Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, The Gilded Age, The Iron Heel, Boston, It Can’t Happen Here. On a classic Carson show, this list would be an invitation to look for a common denominator – which in this case would not be difficult to find. Thematically and stylistically dissimilar as these five books are, all are classics of American literature. More to the point, all are classics of Americanpoliticalliterature. Fictional or factual, journalistic or speculative, published in the nineteenth century or the twentieth, all have greatly enriched our understanding of the United States and of the sociopolitical forces that...

  4. Chapter One 1960s The Return of the Black Panther: Irving Wallace’s The Man
    (pp. 26-56)

    Few postwar American writers could rival the popularity of Robert Ludlum. But only a few of the millions of loyal readers who followed his heroes through labyrinthine webs of deception, corruption, and intrigue expected more than a cursory treatment of political issues. After all, the author himself boasted on more than one occasion that he did not spend much time on things that don’t move the story. To many it comes as a surprise, then, that an informed view of politics and political machinations forms the background of many of Ludlum’s plots. In the case of slightly more ambitious – if...

  5. Chapter Two 1970s The Life and Death of Walter Bodmor Nixon: Richard Condon’s Death of a Politician
    (pp. 57-84)

    Like Raymond Chandler and Walker Percy, Richard Condon became a writer of fiction only in the fifth decade of his life. Author of over twenty novels – in addition to nonfiction, plays, screenplays, and sundry essays on food and travel – he passed away in 1996, the year Beatty’s Senator Bulworth embarked on his quixotic re-election campaign. A self-confessed man of the marketplace, Condon was equally an ambitious and complex novelist. “A writer may call himself an artist,” he said in his autobiography,

    just as an ambulance chaser may call himself a lawyer, but what is art is not likely...

  6. Chapter Three 1980s The Whores R Us: P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores
    (pp. 85-111)

    In the day when the average attention span does not exceed the average sound bite, gimmick is asine qua nonin the bookselling business – and controversy makes for a good gimmick. The proof is in the revenue fromThe Satanic VersesorStupid White Men. Exploitation has become so cynical that not too long ago the Jordanian Islamic Action Front exploded in denials that it had issued afatwaon Khalid Duran forChildren of Abraham. Controversy spells S-A-L-E-S, a fact not lost on the American Jewish Committee, the book’s publisher and the source of the allegation. And the...

  7. Chapter Four 1990s That Dirty Word, Socialism: Warren Beatty’s Bulworth
    (pp. 112-137)

    July 4th is a date fraught with significance in the American political calendar. It is the birthday of a nation, a celebration of its independence, and a photo-op bonanza for the Democratic and Republican political machines. No different in pageantry from any other year, 4 July 2004 was, however, a celebration apart. Left and right, the nation flocked to see a partisan broadside from a writer/director who, with a verve that harked back to Irving Wallace’s sixties, made political waves from Hollywood to Washington. The filmmaker was, of course, Michael Moore, his target, George W. Bush, and his weapon of...

  8. Chapter Five 2000s Truth or Dare? Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men… and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!
    (pp. 138-165)

    “Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.”¹ More than half a century after the publication of “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell’s words ring as true as ever. For eight years the political language of the Bush II administration was a fig leaf held in place by a Pentagon general. As the coalition of the willing violated international laws to secure American access to Iraqi oil, hundreds of thousands died, millions were terrorized in the name of eradicating terrorism, and...

  9. Conclusion Political Art, American Art
    (pp. 166-170)

    The United States occupies a unique place in history. Notwithstanding claims on behalf of the British empire, it is the first truly global pacesetter and trend-setter. Its firstness and foremostness extend to most areas of contemporary life, from telecommunications to popular culture, from (sub)urbanization to consumerism, from business to science, from weapons manufacture down to playing Globocop. For all nations caught in the world wide web of reciprocal entanglements, it pays to learn about the United States, whether to emulate its ideals or to steer away from its mistakes. Lessons learned from the global superpower are truly global in nature.¹...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 171-182)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 183-204)
  12. Index
    (pp. 205-221)