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States of Trial Manhood in Philip Roth's Post-War America by Ann (Birkbeck, University of London, UK) Basu

States of Trial Manhood in Philip Roth's Post-War America

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States of Trial Manhood in Philip Roth's Post-War America by Ann (Birkbeck, University of London, UK) Basu

This study of five towering Philip Roth novels - Operation Shylock, the American Pastoral trilogy, and The Plot Against America - explores his vision of a turbulent post-war America personified in trial-racked Jewish American men. These works collectively register the impact of post-1945 upheavals upon the nation and American trial-based myths about wholesomeness and regeneration. Roth shows how the stories of old which moulded American self-making have produced disorderly and disruptive counter-stories, playing themselves out in Jewish men marked by spots and stains where their constitutional integrity has been infringed. Roth probes the nation's own constitutional testing points as he shatters the identities of characters such as fallen ace athlete Swede Levov and disgraced academic Coleman Silk. His books seek to strip away America's false innocence, demanding that historical accountability should replace myths of new beginnings. Creating arenas of trial for his American men where national discourses and narratives cross and clash, Roth's novels reveal that a culture equals its debates and allow us to see Americans and America as ongoing experiments, always being tested.


Basu examines five of Philip Roth's later novels, from Operation Shylock (1993) to The Plot against America (2004) ... Basu's interpretations of his work are insightful if not groundbreaking. Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers. -- D. C. Maus, State University of New York College at Potsdam * CHOICE * Several critics have published research that attempts to grapple with the complex issue of Roth's literary legacy. One of the best of these works is Ann Basu's recent monograph States of Trial. ... [Basu's] monograph deftly weaves close reading with interpretations provided from critical theorists ... [within a] subtle and convincing theoretical frame. ... [A]n important contribution to critical discussions about Roth. * U.S. Studies Online * Finding something new to say about Philip Roth can be a trial indeed, but Ann Basu has done so on two significant levels: in the historical, cultural, and theoretical frame through which she reads her five focal texts; and in her nuanced and thoughtful work with those novels. This is a book that has a great deal to offer Roth scholars, interested American Studiers, and everyone in between. * Ben Railton, Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of American Studies, Fitchburg State University, USA * Ann Basu's States of Trial presents a refreshing take on Roth's 'trials'-both literal and figurative-for what they can tell us about the state of America in the 20th century. Interpreting the trial not only in terms of the court of law, but also in terms of our personal lives, Basu examines how Roth's trials reveal the testing, suffering, and experimentation underwriting the roles of the writer and the citizen in contemporary life. Viewing the trial as both a rhetorical and liminal space where our confidence in the national body is tested, Basu's book brings new understanding to Roth's investment in the writer's corpus, the bodily integrity of a man and a nation, and the changing concepts of American identity. In so doing, Basu's work is exemplary in its reevaluation of Roth's incessant questioning of the status of the law, the national body, and written language, as well as the ways in which justice and injustice affect our daily lives. * Aimee Pozorski, Professor of English, Central Connecticut State University, USA, and President of the Philip Roth Society * States of Trial pursues a compelling and insightful argument regarding the intersection of masculinity and nationhood in Philip Roth's later fiction. Identifying the recurring trope of the trial throughout a series of Roth's novels, Ann Basu firmly places his fiction within a specifically American literary inheritance. Each chapter combines superlative close reading with a thoroughly persuasive line of argument, delivered in a crystalline prose. A remarkable achievement, States of Trial is a significant contribution to Philip Roth Studies. * Catherine Morley, Senior Lecturer in American Literature, University of Leicester, UK * There have been many recent studies on Philip Roth's output, especially on those works of fiction published in the final two decades of his career. However, Ann Basu's project stands out as a more comprehensive, and nuanced, look at this major American novliest. Approaching her subject through the metaphor of the trial, she looks at the defining themes of Roth's fiction - storytelling, masculine identity, American nationhood, and post-war Jewish culture - as narrative modes of interrogation. The result is a far-reaching assessment of the novelist's career, with Basu herself trying the case of Roth as our cultural arbiter. States of Trial now stands alongside other major studies of this quintessential American writer. * Derek Parker Royal, Founder of the Philip Roth Society and Founding Executive Editor of Philip Roth Studies *

About the Author

Dr. Ann Basu received her PhD on Philip Roth from Birkbeck College, University of London, UK, after retiring from a career as a librarian, most recently at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts, UK.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th May 2015


Ann (Birkbeck, University of London, UK) Basu

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Bloomsbury Academic USA an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc


200 pages


Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers
Literary studies: general
Literary studies: from c 1900 -



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