After all, the central problem in the text is President Lindbergh’s refusal to join WWII to fight against the Nazis. The article, “22,000 Nazis Hold Rally in Garden; Police Check Foes,” covered both the rally and the clashes between police and protesters outside (events also described in the novel). Jewish Identity vs. Assimilation. By clicking “I agree” below, you consent to the use by us and our third-party partners of cookies and data gathered from your use of our platforms. Perhaps they understood democracy better than I did. I selected novels (and secondary sources) that would allow students to consider not just the formal procedures of democracy, but the attitudes, beliefs, and emotions (the ethos) underlying it. About a month after we concluded our discussion of The Plot Against America, a racist incident occurred on our campus while my students were studying Invisible Man.
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA By Philip Roth. The Cast of Plot Pulls From Personal History to Prepare.
Philip Roth has written a terrific political novel, though in a style his readers might never have predicted -- … But I think it speaks equally to a vague chilling effect on free speech – not (or not only) for de-platformed conservative speakers, but for junior, contingent, and immigrant faculty teaching contemporary political issues, even at supportive liberal arts colleges. I’m still not sure how to lead that kind of discussion, and I’m aware that it could go very well or very poorly. All Rights Reserved. We would discuss paranoia and extremism through Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America and Richard Condon’s The Manchurian Candidate, racism and (mis)representation through Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Chang-Rae Lee’s Native Speaker, and, finally, participation and public relations through Joan Didion’s Democracy and Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night. The first was Richard Hofstadter’s well-known 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Hofstadter argues that politicians using the paranoid style seek to explain complex political phenomena through a single scapegoat (Catholics, Jews, Communists, Freemasons). Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! I wasn’t sure where my students stood politically, and being a new faculty member myself, I was worried about provoking a tense debate between them or appearing to “push” views they disagreed with. The Plot Against America Themes The Big Lie It refers to a lie that is so big, and so audacious, that rather than scorn it, people believe it because they cannot conceive of anyone saying something so outrageous and incorrect. Across the novel, Roth’s young protagonist (also named Philip Roth) watches as his family struggles to understand their place in a world of increasingly open anti-semitism. Fitzpatrick explains the immediacy of engaging students in constructive political discourse as she considers how to find a balance between the content of a course titled “Democracy in America” and the current political events students encounter outside of the classroom.
( Log Out / It is a foreign-inspired organization endeavoring to arouse in the United States the same hatreds which in Germany have brought the condemnation of the entire civilized world.
I wasn’t sure if we could have a democratic conversation about democracy, even though I was given a group of students who were more than capable of doing just that. The Plot Against America Themes.
I designed my course “Democracy in America” in the fall of 2016, when the campaign was still in full-swing. If students wanted to protect the free-speech rights of Nazis in the United States, while supporting military intervention against those abroad, could they make those two positions consistent?
In my class, I found myself faced with a different version of this problem. More importantly, they were capable of working through political disagreement among themselves when it arose. View all posts by pedagogyandamericanliterarystudies.
Yet although the context had changed, the texts I had selected for the syllabus still seemed like apt choices.
If anything, students found it too easy to name contemporary phenomena that seemed paranoid and we had to work together to put some limits on the term. We began with Roth’s The Plot Against America, which I taught over five 75min class periods. 391 pp. Katie Fitzpatrick is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English department at Muhlenberg College. Finally, Philip’s parents are unsure whether to believe the most seemingly paranoid theories on the Jewish left (expressed by radio personality Walter Winchell). The documentary follows former FBI Special Agent Dennis Franks as he tracks down enemy “sleepers” who have been strategically placed throughout America, and builds a case to expose them. I was prepared to foster disagreement about students’ interpretations of the novel, their reactions to Hofstadter, or their views on Walter Winchell’s dissent.
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA * By Philip Roth. Philip Roth chose to set The Plot Against America in his hometown of Newark—and to use the real names and, to some extent, biographies of his family members as he drew the characters who would populate the novel, installing a younger version …
For the fourth day of our unit, I brought in a 1939 New York Times Article (purchased from their online archive). Of course, that’s a more vital conversation than anything about close-reading, but it would be a difficult conversation to have – one potentially destructive of our classroom environment, and early in the semester too. 10 likes.
After two class periods focused on close-reading, I began incorporating additional, interdisciplinary sources. Online Resources for Moby-Dick and American Whaling, Teaching Resources for Talking about Race in a “Post-Truth” Era, Mapping Don DeLillo’s White Noise – Welcome to Pedagogy & American Literary Studies, Black Lives Matter: Be an Ally in the Classroom – Welcome to Pedagogy & American Literary Studies, Is this the End of PALS? Overall, The Plot Against America served as an excellent introduction to close-reading. I taught selections from Hannah Arendt and Richard Hoftstadter, as well as a 1939 New York Times article, covering a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden. The Plot Against America narrates a counterfactual history of WWII. Nevertheless, because we believe that the basic rights of free speech and free assembly must never be tampered with in the United States, we are opposed to any action to prevent the Bund from airing its views.”. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. Most did.
Students had no trouble naming uses of the paranoid style in the present.
In fact, they had taken on a new urgency. The crucial moment Roth selects is the presidential election of 1940: in Roth's fictionalized America, incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt loses to Charles Lindburgh. Moreover, his (to me) obvious allusions and metaphors—the Roth family arguing in front of the Lincoln Memorial; Philip’s national park stamp collection turning to swastikas in a nightmare—helped students practice interpreting symbolism, a skill that was vital when we read Invisible Man a few weeks later. Of course, my wariness might speak to my own lack of pedagogical courage.
The Plot Against America narrates a counterfactual history of WWII. Others considered whether and how democracy could contain both free-speech protections and fierce condemnations of hate speech.
Houghton Mifflin Company.
– Revisiting a Reflection, Crowdsourced Online Resources for Teaching, Like Pedagogy & American Literary Studies on Facebook, Follow Welcome to Pedagogy & American Literary Studies on WordPress.com, A Tribe Called Geek: Ingigenerdity for Geeks at the Powwow, Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History, Just Teach One: Early African American Print, Teaching at Teaching-Intensive Institutions, The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History. Beginning in 2001, a shift in counter-intelligence spending meant that the United States took its eye off the spy game while Russia continued to dedicate vast resources to developing their army of spies.
They then used these observations to write a paragraph analyzing how Roth constructs (and then deconstructs) a binary between Jewish and American identity. Most colleges are prepared to hold debates on taxation, for example, but not on the humanity of people of color (a necessary distinction, in my opinion).
They often defaulted to viewing any form of disagreement or antagonism through the lens of paranoia. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. How does democracy happen on a daily basis, at the local level, or even outside the law?” I imagined that with President Clinton in office many American liberals and centrists would take a step back from politics – in relief.
Students looked for patterns, binaries, strands, and anomalies in a passage describing his family’s assimilation.
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