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Vietnam and BeyondTim O'Brien and the Power of Storytelling$
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Stefania Ciocia

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781846318207

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846317767

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date: 20 November 2017

Vietnam and Beyond

Vietnam and Beyond

Chapter:
(p.13) 1 Vietnam and Beyond
Source:
Vietnam and Beyond
Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/UPO9781846317767.002

This chapter, which provides an introductory context for the remainder of the book, sketches the reasons for the common definition of Vietnam as a postmodern war, and the impact of this perception on the literature on the subject. It then considers the inscription of this view of the war within a specifically American cultural context: the myth of the frontier. The third section develops the author's initial comments on the ‘journey into the heart of darkness’ as a paradigm in the perception of the war, and relates this trope to O'Brien's deconstruction of gender and racial stereotypes, and to his mythopoetic sensitivity – both exemplary of a postmodern poetics, in spite of O'Brien's firm disavowal of this label. The last section looks at the challenges inherent in writing about war vis-à-vis changed attitudes towards the notion of heroism, while also giving a brief overview of the specific literary and cultural models that O'Brien engages with, or has pointedly chosen to disregard.

Keywords:   postmodern war, Vietnam War, frontier, gender, racial stereotypes, heroism, poetics

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