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Norman Mailer and the Modernist Turn

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Jerry Schuchalter

This study is a comprehensive scholarly treatment of Norman Mailer’s entire œuvre, including not only his fiction and non-fiction, but also his correspondence, his early journal articles and his interviews. It outlines Mailer’s Entwicklungsgeschichte, illuminating the lines of continuity and discontinuity in his literary achievement and shows Mailer’s work to be firmly ensconced in the tradition of Modernism and inspired by the Pound-Eliot axis. It argues that Mailer’s literary opus is intertwined with his worldview, which, despite its inconsistencies and contradictions, contains a systematic structure.
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Chapter 4: “The Liberal Party”

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Like any worldview, Mailer’s new Gospel required formidable adversaries and enemies, the most threatening of whom were liberals. Mailer seldom used the term liberalism; instead, he frequently used “liberal” in the plural sense referring to an indeterminate group of people propagating a pernicious ideology or as a pejorative adjective, e. g., “liberal lawyers,” “liberal professors,” “liberal architecture,” “liberal technology,” “liberal pundits,” “liberal superhighways,” “liberal academics,” “liberal rhetoric,” even “the liberal mind”—everything appearing to contravene his own ideology was given the appellation of “liberal.” This fixation on liberals does not seem surprising in retrospect, for in the years following the conflagration of the Second World War, the word “liberal” reasserted itself in the official culture of modern America. Suddenly America was a liberal society with a liberal system of government and a liberal set of values. This had apparently always been the case, according to Louis Hartz, whose book, The Liberal Tradition in America (1955), became celebrated as a seminal work used by political pundits and universities in the 1950s and 1960s. Hartz’s central thesis was that America was born into liberalism, that because it lacked a feudal tradition, it could not engender a socialist alternative. Thus, it was indifferent to both Marxist and reactionary ideas and movements. In short, American society “has within it, as it were, a self-completing mechanism, which insures the universality of the liberal idea.”236 A similar “mechanism” was found by Frederick Jackson Turner on the frontier more than sixty years earlier, which...

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