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Vietnam and Other American Fantasies

A provocative reassessment of the Vietnam War and its cultural and political legacies

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There is now fairly widespread acknowledgment that the Vietnam War shattered many of the traditional narratives central to formerly prevailing vision of the United States and its history. Some people regret this and seek to restore old narratives that they consider essential to a unifying national identity, but their mighty efforts are unlikely to put Humpty Dumpty together again. Others see this shattering as a liberation from dangerous illusions, a wake-up call that forced millions of Americans toward more truthful and beneficial narratives about American history and culture. There is a third view, one that has gained considerable influence in intellectual circles, that sees any "master narrative" or "meta-narrative"--or, for that matter, any coherently structured narrative--as a socially constructed fantasy that radically falsifies the fragmentary, conflicted, and de-centered character of social experience. Although in this book the author does not engage in overt arguments about narrative theory, he does operate from a theoretical position that highly values narratives, especially coherently structures narratives--including some forms of fantasy--as crucial to comprehending, within our human limits, human reality.

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