Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Donald Pease and the New Americanists

I assume that a significant percentage of the readers of this blog are in some way familiar with Dartmouth professor Donald Pease. I had the privilege of taking a class with Professor Pease, and I was very glad to run across this very interesting interview with him in The Minnesota Review. The interview focuses on the development of the New Americanists, the tradition against which they were reacting, and the effects of that conflict.
The New Americanists worked against the ideology of consensus that, at that time, had been given a powerful buffer by Sacvan Bercovitch's notion of "the rituals of assent," where even dissent was construed as a ritual formation. In so far as it rebelled in terms that ratified pre-existing presuppositions, it simply renewed the pre-existing consensus. The New Americanists problematized the very notion of renewal and undermined the notion of what I would call "surplus consensus formation," which also appropriated dissent as a version of formal consensus that ratified liberal individualism. The dissent was producing an instance of consensus that could not be included within the dialectic of renewal—which was, in the deepest sense, an end of ideology.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Donald Pease assumes in his critiques two things that aren't true. First, he assumes that American Studies and American literary studies in the past was conservative and supported the cold war consensus. The evidence in the Library of Congress American Studies Association archives proves beyond a doubt that this isn't true. F.O. Matthiessen, for example, stumped for the Communist Party and was a child of the cultural front. Second, he assumes that the "political unconscious" exists. I've never seen it. Have you, dear reader? If you do, I'd love to have a look at it some time.