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Counterfeit Culture
Truth and Authenticity in the American Prose Epic since 1960

Part of Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: June 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108428484


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About the Authors
  • Counterfeit Culture explores the possibility of writing epic in an age of alternative facts. Examining six attempts to forge an American prose epic since 1960, this study goes on to trace a national tradition of inauthenticity, stretching back across four centuries. In works by authors such as Pynchon, Gaddis and Burroughs, the contemporary turn away from truth and authenticity can be seen as a return to an established line of literary tricksters and confidence men, with tropes of fraud and artifice running deep in the American grain. Combining archival work with historically-inflected analysis of literary narrative, this book ranges through questions of identity, technology, history, and music in its engagement. From Marguerite Young's inquiry into psychological disintegration to William T. Vollmann's ongoing cycle of false histories, the study introduces a new reading of the American epic.

    • Brings literary-critical context to the current debate surrounding inauthenticity and 'alternative facts' in American culture and public life
    • Draws upon neglected texts, including the longest novel in American literature (Marguerite Young's Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, 1965), alongside more canonical works
    • Extends the exploration of national epic in the Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture series into the contemporary era
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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108428484
    • length: 232 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 4 b/w illus. 1 table
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: America and the 'way to the devil'
    1. Marguerite Young's flood of consciousness
    2. William Gaddis and the 'novel-writing-machine' of Andy Warhol
    3. 'Paper reality': William S. Burroughs and the cut-up method
    4. 'Bad history': Thomas Pynchon and the apocryphal epic
    5. 'History shambles on': William T. Vollmann and the Seven Dreams Cycle
    Conclusion: 'every story has two tails'

  • Author

    Rob Turner, University of Exeter
    Rob Turner is a Lecturer in twentieth and twenty-first-century Literature at the University of Exeter. He studied for his doctorate at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge. His research is focused on American literature, with particular interests in the epic mode, and the poetics of hip-hop. He is a regular contributor to the Wire magazine.

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