How does neoliberalism feel? This question motivates these two strong studies of contemporary US political discourse and fiction. Both Anker and Smith answer it with an associative or descriptive mapping that they prefer to the apparently dated project of ideology critique. “My generation of political theorists,” Anker writes in her final chapter, refuses “to grant moral purity to cherished canonical texts, key modes of critique, and firm political identifications [in hopes of keeping] them open to inquiry” (223). She valorizes narratives of failure, opposing these to what she sees as the unreflective left-wing melancholy of the preceding generations. Similarly, Smith’s final paragraph calls for a change “in our fundamental critical attitudes”; even though “texts might best be read symptomatically, according to the protocols of ideology critique,” she asserts, scholars need to chart ways that texts “run askew of our expectations” if they...

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