Late Postmodernism and the Utopian Imagination
Cheever’s remarks are surprising, given his usual sharp-eyed interest in middle-class suburban lives, the private anguish of the woman rather than the Whitmanesque word en masse, but they evoke nonetheless a sense of purpose and cultural authority for the writer. He calls for the American author to engage with the symbolic acts—spectatorial participation in a panoply of election—by which a national identity is enacted and affirmed. As the 400 spectators reach for the foul ball as one, they play out a ritual that culminates, according to Cheever, in the “sense of moral judgments embodied in a migratory vastness.” This migratory vastness is not simply the clamorous expanse of the baseball stadium; it is America itself, and the writer participates in the “ceremony” of national identity.
I think that the task of an American writer is not to describe the misgivings of a woman taken in adultery as she looks out of a window at the rain, but to describe four hundred people under the lights reaching for a foul ball. This is ceremony. The umpires in clericals, sifting out the souls of the players; the faint thunder as ten thousand people, at the bottom of the eighth, head for the exits. The sense of moral judgments embodied in a migratory vastness.1
KeywordsMoral Judgment Consumer Culture Social Body Shared Concern Cultural Authority
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- 1.John Cheever, The Journals (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991), p. 185. DeLillo read the passage in a documentary entitled “The Word, The Image and The Gun” (directed by Kim Evans), broadcast on BBC1, September 27, 1991.Google Scholar
- 2.See, in particular, Duvall, “The (Super)Marketplace of Images,” and McClure, Late Imperial Romance ( London: Verso, 1994 ), pp. 118–151.Google Scholar
- 4.Richard Powers, Gain ( New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1998 ).Google Scholar
- 5.Evan Dara, The Lost Scrapbook (Normal, IL: FC2, 1995). All references will be parenthetical.Google Scholar
- 6.See the important discussion in Miriam Hansen, “Foreword” to Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere, trans. by Peter Labanyi, Jamie Daniel, and Assenka Oksiloff (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), pp. ix–xli.Google Scholar
- 7.Allan Bloom, The Closing ofthe American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987 ).Google Scholar