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Distributed for Campus Verlag

The Fiction of America

Performance and the Cultural Imaginary in Literature and Film

The Fiction of America juxtaposes classic literature of the American Renaissance with twentieth-century popular culture—pairing, for instance, Ralph Waldo Emerson with Finding Nemo, Walt Whitman with Spiderman, and Hester Prynne with Madonna—to investigate how the “Americanness” of American culture constitutes itself in the interplay of the cultural imaginary and performance. Conceptualizing “America” as a transhistorical practice, Susanne Hamscha reveals disruptive, spectral moments in the narrative of “America,” which confront American culture with its inherent inconsistencies. 

350 pages | 13 color plates | 5 1/2 x 8 3/8

North American Studies

Culture Studies

Media Studies

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“Scholars have increasingly asserted the constructed nature of national identities, but Hamscha extends that notion to produce a deconstructive reading of ‘America’ as a performed cultural identity that is haunted by its silenced voices and also rearticulated through their constant challenges to the dominant imaginary. . . . Hamscha’s work engages productively with theories of nation, identity, and form to disrupt easy understanding of America and its many productions. Recommended.”

D. E. Magill, Longwood University | Choice

Table of Contents



      The Fiction of America—America as Fiction

Act I

      Setting the Stage—or, Performing ‘America’ on the Streets of Philadelphia

Act II

      Will the Real American Please Stand Up! Americanness (Dis) Embodied

      Scenario 1, A Fish Called Emerson: The American Scholar and “Finding Nemo”

      Scenario 2, From Walden Pong to “Jurassic Park”: The Re(dis)covery of America

      Scenario 3, S(w)inging the Self: Whitman, “Spider-Man,” and the Body Politic


      American Idols: The Anatomy of Race and Gender

      Scenario 1, The Shark Has Pretty Teeth: Straight White Masculinity and Ethnic Ventriloquism in “Moby-Dick” and “Jaws”

      Scenario 2, Ghostly Femininity: Parody and Dissent in “The Scarlet Letter” and Madonna


      The Specters of America



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