William V. Spanos’s most recent book, Shock and Awe: American Exceptionalism and the Imperatives of the Spectacle in Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (2013), offers the occasion to reflect on the distinctive quality of his long, productive career. His work stands out for its continuing capacity to engage productively with arguments by his juniors, including some so eminent as Sacvan Bercovitch and Edward Said. This new book arises from Spanos’s recognition that he and Jonathan Arac understand differently the significance of “contrapuntal criticism” as elaborated by Said in Culture and Imperialism. The essay attempts to understand the motives and significance of this difference.

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