This article argues that the contemporary forms of macho populism dominating much of US political and cultural life have their ideological and aesthetic roots in the country’s vexed relationship to the memory of its own violence, particularly the many images of dead and disfigured male soldiers and ex-soldiers present in twentieth-and twenty-first-century culture. The provocations of Norman Mailer, particularly his bombastic statements on race and gender, perfectly represent the still vibrantly supported belief that the basic tragedy of contemporary American life is that wounded (white) masculinity stands in need of healing through a return to battle and conquest.

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