Title A Desire Called America
Subtitle Biopolitics, Utopia, and the Literary Commons
Author Christian P. Haines
ISBN 9780823286959
List price GBP 23.99
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Paperback
No of pages 272
Book size 153 x 229 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher Fordham University Press (Combined Academic Publishers)
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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“Drawing together autonomist and post-autonomist Marxism, theories of the biopolitical, and the long genealogy of critiques of exceptionalism, A Desire Called America imagines a bold new way forward for American Studies. Instead of the endlessly receding work of critique, in which each critical excoriation of exceptionalism is, in turn, interrogated for being insufficiently negative by the next, Christian Haines makes a bold turn to the positive, studying key texts of the national canon in order to see the surplus of radical political desire and biopolitical possibility that resist and form in contradiction with the discourse of exceptionalism.”
Christopher Breu


“In this well-crafted, expertly researched... study, Haines finds the nexus of biopolitics, utopian desires, and literary critique called America... Highly recommended.”


“Haines’ book is guided by a remarkable ambition. Drawing on a large archive of recent debates, and discussing authors as diverse as Emily Dickinson and Thomas Pynchon, it unearths a novel understanding of what bio-politics might mean. In so doing it formulates original readings of a series of canonical American texts with special attention to what the denominator America might mean in them. In Haines’ reading, America appears as neither national nor transnational, neither exceptional nor globalized, but as singular. Treating singularity as a rigorous philosophical concept Haines introduces us into unexpected encounters with texts and words we thought we already understood so well.”
Branka Arsic, Columbia University


Critics of American exceptionalism usually view it as a destructive force eroding the radical energies of social movements and aesthetic practices. In A Desire Called America, Christian P. Haines confronts a troubling paradox: Some of the most provocative political projects in the United States are remarkably invested in American exceptionalism. Riding a strange current of U.S. literature that draws on American exceptionalism only to overturn it in the name of utopian desire, Haines reveals a tradition of viewing the United States as a unique and exemplary political model while rejecting exceptionalism’s commitments to nationalism, capitalism, and individualism. Through Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William S. Burroughs, and Thomas Pynchon, Haines brings to light a radically different version of the American dream—one in which political subjects value an organization of social life that includes democratic self-governance, egalitarian cooperation, and communal property.

A Desire Called America brings utopian studies and the critical discourse of biopolitics to bear upon each other, suggesting that utopia might be less another place than our best hope for confronting authoritarianism, neoliberalism, and a resurgent exclusionary nationalism.


Introduction: Impossibly American

Chapter 1. A Revolutionary Haunt: Utopian Frontiers in William S. Burroughs’s Late Trilogy

Chapter 2. The People and the People: Democracy and Vitalism in Walt Whitman’s 1855 Leaves of Grass

Chapter 3. Nobody’s Wife: Affective Economies of Marriage in Emily Dickinson

Chapter 4. Idle Power: The Riot, the Commune, and Capitalist Time in Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day

Coda: Assembling the Future




About the Author:

Christian P. Haines is Assistant Professor of English at Penn State University.

Target Audience:

People interested in utopian studies & biopolitics.


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