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America is driven by vengeance in Terry Aladjem's provocative account – a reactive, public anger that is a threat to democratic justice itself. From the return of the death penalty to the wars on terror and in Iraq, Americans demand retribution and moral certainty; they assert the 'rights of victims' and make pronouncements against 'evil'. Yet for Aladjem this dangerously authoritarian turn has its origins in the tradition of liberal justice itself – in theories of punishment that justify inflicting pain and in the punitive practices that result. Exploring vengeance as the defining problem of our time, Aladjem returns to the theories of Locke, Hegel and Mill. He engages the ancient Greeks, Nietzsche, Paine and Foucault to challenge liberal assumptions about punishment. He interrogates American law, capital punishment and images of justice in the media. He envisions a democratic justice that is better able to contain its vengeance.
American Revenge Narratives critically examines the nation’s vengeful storytelling tradition. With essays on late twentieth and twenty-first century fiction, film, and television, it maps the coordinates of the revenge genre’s contemporary reinvention across American culture. By surveying American revenge narratives, this book measures how contemporary payback plots appraise the nation’s political, social, and economic inequities. The volume’s essays collectively make the case that retribution is a defining theme of post-war American culture and an artistic vehicle for critique. In another sense, this book presents a scholarly coming to terms with the nation’s love for vengeance. By investigating recent iterations of an ancient genre, contributors explore how the revenge narrative evolves and thrives within American literary and filmic imagination. Taken together, the book’s diverse chapters attempt to understand American culture’s seemingly inexhaustible production of vengeful tales.
This book is a cultural history of the interplay between the Western genre and American gun rights and legal paradigms. From muskets in the hands of landed gentry opposing tyrannical government to hidden pistols kept to ward off potential attackers, the historical development of entwined legal and cultural discourses has sanctified the use of gun violence by private citizens and specified the conditions under which such violence may be legally justified. Gunslinging justice explores how the Western genre has imagined new justifications for gun violence which American law seems ever-eager to adopt.
Revenge has been a subject of concern in most intellectual traditions throughout history, and even when social norms regard it as permissible or even obligatory, it is commonly recognised as being more counterproductive than beneficial. In this book, Kit R. Christensen explores this provocative issue, offering an in-depth account of both the nature of revenge and the causes and consequences of the desire for this kind of retaliatory violence. He then develops a version of eudaimonistic consequentialism to argue that vengeance is never morally justified, and applies this to cases of intergroup violence where the lust for revenge against a vilified 'Them' is easily incited and often exploited. His study will interest a wide range of readers in moral philosophy as well as social philosophers, legal theorists, and social/behavioural scientists.
Cool is a word of American English that has been integrated into the vocabulary of numerous languages around the globe. Today it is a term most often used in advertising trendy commodities, or, more generally, in promoting urban lifestyles in our postmodern age. But what is the history of the term “cool?" When has coolness come to be associated with certain modes of contemporary self-fashioning? On what grounds do certain nations claim a privilege to be recognized as “cool?" These are some of the questions that served as a starting-point for a comparative cultural inquiry which brought together specialists from American Studies and Japanese Studies, but also from Classics, Philosophy and Sociology. The conceptual grid of the volume can be described as follows: (1) Coolness is a metaphorical term for affect-control. It is tied in with cultural discourses on the emotions and the norms of their public display, and with gendered cultural practices of subjectivity. (2) In the course of the cultural transformations of modernity, the term acquired new importance as a concept referring to practices of individual, ethnic, and national difference. (3) Depending on cultural context, coolness is defined in terms of aesthetic detachment and self-irony, of withdrawal, dissidence and even latent rebellion. (4) Coolness often carries undertones of ambivalence. The situational adequacy of cool behavior becomes an issue for contending ethical and aesthetic discourses since an ethical ideal of self-control and a strategy of performing self-control are inextricably intertwined. (5) In literature and film, coolness as a character trait is portrayed as a personal strength, as a lack of emotion, as an effect of trauma, as a mask for suffering or rage, as precious behavior, or as savvyness. This wide spectrum is significant: artistic productions offer valid insights into contradictions of cultural discourses on affect-control. (6) American and Japanese cultural productions show that twentieth-century notions of coolness hybridize different cultural traditions of affect-control.
Films both reflect and construct social reality, especially in the way they employ, affirm and critique the discourses through which we grasp political life. This book examines five contemporary feature films that engage our deep attachments to two core political ideas— freedom and vengeance — asking: what do audiences learn about freedom and vengeance from film, and what are the political consequences of the reproduction or disruption of their meanings? Often, contemporary films represent the pursuit of freedom and revenge in a depoliticized way, erasing the precarious character of social life. Other films, however, foreground the negotiation of unchosen relations and circumstances in their drama. Films examined include Into the Wild, Mystic River, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Wendy and Lucy and Winter’s Bone.
One of the most successful series of its time, Have Gun—Will Travel became a cultural phenomenon in the late 1950s and made its star, Richard Boone, a nationwide celebrity. The series offered viewers an unusual hero in the mysterious, Shakespeare-spouting gunfighter known only as “Paladin” and garnered a loyal fan base, including a large female following. In Have Gun—Will Travel, film scholar Gaylyn Studlar draws on a remarkably wide range of episodes from the series’ six seasons to show its sophisticated experimentation with many established conventions of the Western. Studlar begins by exploring how the series made the television Western sexy, speaking to mid-twentieth century anxieties and aspirations in the sexual realm through its “dandy” protagonist and more liberal expectations of female sexuality. She also explores the show’s interest in a variety of historical issues and contemporaneous concerns—including differing notions of justice and the meaning of racial and cultural difference in an era marked by the civil rights movement. Through a production history of Have Gun—Will Travel, Studlar provides insight into the television industry of the late 1950s and early 1960s, showing how, in this transition period in which programming was moving from sponsor to network control, the series’ star exercised controversial influence on his show’s aesthetics. Because Have Gun—Will Travel was both so popular and so different from its predecessors and rivals, it presents a unique opportunity to examine what pleasures and challenges television Westerns could offer their audiences. Fans of the show as well as scholars of TV history and the Western genre will enjoy this insightful volume.

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