Total Mobilization (Paperback)
World War II and American Literature
University of Chicago Press, 9780226637310, 288pp.
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Other Editions of This Title:
Since World War II, the story of the trauma hero—the noble white man psychologically wounded by his encounter with violence—has become omnipresent in America’s narratives of war, an imaginary solution to the contradictions of American political hegemony. In Total Mobilization, Roy Scranton cuts through the fog of trauma that obscures World War II, uncovering a lost history and reframing the way we talk about war today.
Considering often overlooked works by James Jones, Wallace Stevens, Martha Gellhorn, and others, alongside cartoons and films, Scranton investigates the role of the hero in industrial wartime, showing how such writers struggled to make sense of problems that continue to plague us today: the limits of American power, the dangers of political polarization, and the conflicts between nationalism and liberalism. By turning our attention to the ways we make war meaningful—and by excavating the politics implicit within the myth of the traumatized hero—Total Mobilization revises the way we understand not only World War II, but all of postwar American culture.
About the Author
Praise For Total Mobilization: World War II and American Literature…
— Vincent Sherry, Washington University in St. Louis
— Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University
— Paul K. Saint-Amour, author of Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form
"Scranton’s book asks an urgent question: How can citizens in 'an industrial commercial republic attempt to manage the conflict of liberal humanist values with the military violence that makes the practice of those values possible.' With precision and depth, Scranton answers by exploring the 'the role of the hero in totalized industrial war.' He exhumes the forgotten traces in poetry, narrative, film and cartoon, emphasizing the manner in which the category of trauma defines our nation’s ethics for what is socially acceptable. Fascinating, articulate, timely and richly archival, the book dissects the 'ethnonationalist pieties' embedded in the literature of the 'good' Second World War, engaging the fiercely contrasting layers between the real and the symbolic and the manufacture and deployment of the traumatic hero."
— Lawrence Jackson, Johns Hopkins University
— Mark McGurl, Stanford University