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Thread: Patriotism in literature

  1. #1

    Patriotism in literature

    Hi all!
    I'm just looking for a few suggestions from fellow literature enthusiasts! I'm thinking about patriotism in literature, more specifically, how literature helps define what it means to be patriotic. This, of course, is open to a variety of interpretations. We can observe say Allen Ginsberg's interpretation of patriotism in contrast to Benjamin Franklin, or Emerson, or Whitman.

    What I'm looking for are a few suggestions as far as patriotism exemplified in fiction. I'm thinking of rereading The Great Gatsby (a seemingly obvious choice) but am struggling to come up with other options. As noted, I've got plenty of poetic examples, but am interested in exploring this theme elsewhere.

    Outside of fiction and poetry I'll be reading a variety of essays. Any suggestions here would be equally as appreciated. Thanks for any and all suggestions, this should be pretty exciting!

  2. #2
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Well, it's an interesting theme. Certainly you can look into Homer and Virgil if you want to include the classics. Joyce's Ullysses is a patriotic work in a undercutting sort of way. Patriotism in the novel is a delicate matter. Contemporary cynicism makes overt patriotism sound hollow, so a writer needs to approach his love for his homeland and fellow countrymen with a refracted view. Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead might have a sort of patriotic flair to it. Of course there is the Tom Clancy type of genre fiction.

    Books are embalmed minds.

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  3. #3
    Neo-Scriblerus Modest Proposal's Avatar
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    Interesting idea. It seems the word has many meanings: supporting, loving, strengthening, altering...

    While it is used today as meaning a sort of blind support, I think the arguement about Ginsberg being patriotic--in that he wanted to challange the powers in place to make of America, what he thought it should be--is very intruiging and I wrote a similarly themed essay about "America".

    The problem I think you will run into, we discussed in the "conservative literature" thread, is that literature tends to be critical of the system from which it is produced. As Achebe says, "it is a form of protest." You will probably find most cannonical literature in a mode of patriotism that is usually dissenting from the country.

    What may be helpful is to look at literature when the populis seems united in opposition to the country-as-govenment. Most of the US was anti-slavery by the time the Civil War occured. Similar numbers were seen during the latter half of the Vietnam conflict. "No-No Boy" by Okada is about being Japanease-American after the internment camps of California.

    Honestly, the more I think about it, the more it seems like excitement about, and pride in one's country is not often represented in western art. Melville, Whitman, Twain and Emerson were all for a time, but most of them seemed disenfranchised later.

    Here's two quotes for you though:
    "Every man is ashamed of the government he is under." H. L. Mencken

    And one of my favorites:
    "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." Samuel Johnson

  4. #4
    thank you both for your responses. they have been incredibly helpful and have had me thinking about this subject from an entirely new perspective.

    i'm still trying to come up with a contemporary novel that showcases some sort of patriotism. if you come up with anything, please let me know. thanks

  5. #5
    freedom 35 vonsvin's Avatar
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    How about Hunter S. Thompson, he had some unique and offbeat ideas about patriotism.

  6. #6
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France might prove an interesting choice.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

  7. #7
    freedom 35 vonsvin's Avatar
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    Speaking of France, there is also Maurice Barrès, Le Jardin de Bérénice from 1890. some people say he's the father of ultranationalism.

  8. #8

    Cool While his books were not an overt form of patriotism,

    they did tell some good tales about the United States from the French and Indian War to the American Revolution and beyond. The novels of James Fenimore Cooper were supposedly very popular in Europe. All of his Leatherstocking Tales and others such as The Spy, The Pilot, and Red Rover promote the United States without being intrusive.

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