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Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom [Paperback]

Elisabeth R. Anker

Price: £16.21 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

25 Sep 2014
Melodrama is not just a film or literary genre but a powerful political discourse that galvanizes national sentiment to legitimate state violence. Finding virtue in national suffering and heroism in sovereign action, melodramatic political discourses cast war and surveillance as moral imperatives for eradicating villainy and upholding freedom. In Orgies of Feeling, Elisabeth R. Anker boldly reframes political theories of sovereignty, freedom, and power by analyzing the work of melodrama and affect in contemporary politics. Arguing that melodrama animates desires for unconstrained power, Anker examines melodramatic discourses in the War on Terror, neoliberal politics, anticommunist rhetoric, Hollywood film, and post-Marxist critical theory. Building on Friedrich Nietzsche's notion of "orgies of feeling," in which overwhelming emotions displace commonplace experiences of vulnerability and powerlessness onto a dramatic story of injured freedom, Anker contends that the recent upsurge in melodrama in the United States is an indication of public discontent. Yet the discontent that melodrama reflects is ultimately an expression of the public's inability to overcome systemic exploitation and inequality rather than an alarmist response to inflated threats to the nation.

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"Anyone who thinks that melodrama is inherently politically progressive is advised to read this book, the first to systematically apply the role of the American melodramatic mode to the political of American heroic sovereignty. Perhaps the boldest part of Elisabeth R. Anker's thesis is not simply the general argument of Americans often cast their politics into narratives of victimization and vengeance, but the historical argument that a new kind of melodrama has emerged 'with a vengeance' after the end of the Cold War and especially after 9/11. I am in awe of this book's boldness and acuity." "Anyone who thinks that melodrama is inherently politically progressive is advised to read this book, the first to systematically apply the role of the American melodramatic mode to the politics of American heroic sovereignty. Perhaps the boldest part of Elisabeth R. Anker's thesis is not simply the general argument that Americans often cast their politics into narratives of victimization and vengeance, but the historical argument that a new kind of melodrama has emerged 'with a vengeance' after the end of the Cold War and especially after 9/11. I am in awe at this book's boldness and acuity." "Story tokens lodged in the cultural unconscious provide containers within which difficult events are grasped, grievances are defined, and political expectations are generated. In this impressive, beautifully crafted book Elisabeth R. Anker excavates the politics of melodrama; she offers strategies to transcend it on some occasions and to creatively redeploy it on others. A subtle, commanding study, helping to reconfigure our understandings of freedom, sovereignty and critical action." "Story tokens lodged in the cultural unconscious provide containers within which difficult events are grasped, grievances are defined, and political expectations are generated. In this impressive, beautifully crafted book Elisabeth R. Anker excavates the politics of melodrama; she offers strategies to transcend it on some occasions and to creatively redeploy it on others. A subtle, commanding study, helping to reconfigure our understandings of freedom, sovereignty and critical action."

About the Author

Elisabeth R. Anker is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Political Science at George Washington University.

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