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America's Shadow

An Anatomy of Empire

1999
Author:

William V. Spanos

America's Shadow

Examines the mind-set of Western imperialism from its origins in the Roman Empire to the Vietnam War.

A study of imperialism that stretches from ancient Rome to the post–Cold War world and focuses on the Vietnam War, this provocative work boldly revises our assumptions about the genealogy of the West. Rather than locating its source in classical Greece, William V. Spanos argues, we should look to ancient Rome, which first articulated the ideas that would become fundamental to the West’s imperial project. These founding ideas, he claims, have informed the American national identity and its foreign policy from its origins.

William Spanos offers a brilliant application of postmodern philosophy and postcolonial criticism to a study of the Vietnam War, which he feels is the most important issue in late twentieth-century American culture. Spanos’s rigorous positioning of Vietnam’s place in American culture is compelling.

College Literature

A study of imperialism that stretches from ancient Rome to the post–Cold War world, this provocative work boldly revises our assumptions about the genealogy of the West. Rather than locating its source in classical Greece, William V. Spanos argues, we should look to ancient Rome, which first articulated the ideas that would become fundamental to the West’s imperial project. These founding ideas, he claims, have informed the American national identity and its foreign policy from its origins.

The Vietnam War is at the center of this book. In the contradiction between the “free world” logic used to justify U.S. intervention in Vietnam and the genocidal practices used to realize that logic, Spanos finds the culmination of an imperialistic discourse reaching back to the colonizing rationale of the Roman Empire. Spanos identifies the language of expansion in the “white” metaphors used in Western philosophical discourse since the colonization of Greek thought by the Romans. He shows how these metaphors, and their use in metaphysical discourse, have long been complicit in the violence of imperialism.

Unique in the context of postcolonial studies, this book emphasizes what is largely overlooked by commentators on imperialism: its metaphysical source. By interpreting U.S. conduct in the Vietnam War as the fulfillment of the logic springing from ancient Rome, America’s Shadow calls on us to confront our past, our “truths,” and the imperialistic violence latent in our inherited frame of reference. It urges us to discover the positive critical and political possibilities that lie in an examination of the contradictions that haunt the language of Western thought.

America's Shadow

William V. Spanos is professor of English and comparative literature at Binghamton University. He is the founding editor of boundary 2, and his many books include The End of Education and Heidegger and Criticism, both published by the University of Minnesota Press.

America's Shadow

William Spanos offers a brilliant application of postmodern philosophy and postcolonial criticism to a study of the Vietnam War, which he feels is the most important issue in late twentieth-century American culture. Spanos’s rigorous positioning of Vietnam’s place in American culture is compelling.

College Literature