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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: 21 October 2018

Vietnam and Beyond

Vietnam and Beyond

(p.13) 1 Vietnam and Beyond
Vietnam and Beyond
Liverpool University Press

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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