Cosmopolitan America: Affect, Attention, and the Nation in Post-Cold War Literature
MetadataShow full item record
My dissertation makes two key interventions in the fields of cosmopolitanism and contemporary American literature. First, I define cosmopolitanism as a way of organizing sociality in terms of affect, through how individuals pay attention to the world. Interactions with people and texts evoke affects and socialization trains individuals how to respond to them through the formation of feelings for particular forms of community. Rather than a set of actually existing conditions or some common identity, cosmopolitanism, as a potential outcome for ongoing processes of socialization, is one means of politicizing affect within political institutions like the nation, which remain grounded in material conditions and particular identities. Cosmopolitanism is not some state of affairs that our actions or intentions bring into being; it remains abstract and outside the present in the form of appeals to a nostalgic past or utopian future. For example, nationalist literature deploys the idea of cosmopolitanism as a reality or possibility to reconsolidate the political effects of affect around the nation-state. Second, I argue that recent literature about America reconceptualizes the nation’s cultural and political value through appeals to cosmopolitanism as if it were a set of conditions or common identity that readers can use to construct a positive self-identity. This rhetorical move justifies a simultaneous vision of expanding cultural, political, and economic influence that accompanies American texts’ visions of America as the center of cosmopolitan humanitarian or ethical interventions. Literary appeals to America as the center of cosmopolitan solidarity manage the formation of the nation within global space by encouraging readers to feel positively for their global presence. The dissertation presents detailed readings of texts concerned with the identity of America rather than those emerging from it as the object of its inquiry to show how global literature situates the affective experience of America within a cosmopolitan sociability stratified across a number of solidarities including race, class, gender, and nationality. Analyzing texts by David Foster Wallace, Hari Kunzru, Joe Sacco, Aleksandar Hemon, Jonathan Safran Foer, Karen Tei Yamashita, and Dave Eggers, I elaborate on critical and philosophical deployments of cosmopolitanism as justifications for the management of communication, human rights, and aesthetic production alongside literary analogs that situate critical struggles to realize cosmopolitanism within America.
Yost, Brian Armstrong (2014). Cosmopolitan America: Affect, Attention, and the Nation in Post-Cold War Literature. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from