By Theophilus Savvas (auth.)
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Extra resources for American Postmodernist Fiction and the Past
By depicting them as ‘outsiders’, Coover highlights the way in which the Rosenbergs became scapegoats for an American society which had, after 1950, lost the optimism of the immediate post-war years and become paranoid and despondent. Nixon reads the national mood well in the novel when he labels the 1950s as ‘a time of great national malaise’, a period when ‘things seem to have gone sour somehow’ (Public Burning 162). Hence the execution becomes a ‘public burning’, a ‘communal pageant’ of purgation and cathartic renewal which, thinks Nixon, ‘is just what the troubled nation needs right now to renew its sinking spirit’ (Public Burning 4).
Questioning the binary leads him to think that perhaps that middle ground between the dialectical poles, that very ground which previously had made him ‘sweat’, was actually ‘where all the real motion took place now that the old frontier was gone: the suburbs, waystop for transients, and thus the true America. My America’. ’ Considering himself a mediator Nixon believes he might be able to ‘urbanize the countryside and bring the wilderness back to the cities’, and so casts himself as the most important person in the pastoral myth: the shepherd, who functions as liminal figure between the world of organised society and the natural realm (Public Burning 373).
Maybe in Russia history had a plot . . I had to step in and change the script’, but then dismally concludes, ‘I was no more free than 34 American Postmodernist Fiction and the Past the Rosenbergs were’ (Public Burning 362, 363, 367). Nixon’s equivocations, and indeed, Coover’s own use of the motif of determinism in the novel, may I think be clarified by the thought of Hayden White and Leo Tolstoy. 42 And indeed through the latter stages of The Public Burning Coover clearly utilises the version that Nixon draws of himself in Six Crises.
American Postmodernist Fiction and the Past by Theophilus Savvas (auth.)