This chapter distinguishes American exceptionalism from what the author terms a singular America. It argues that American exceptionalism depends on disciplining or taming the utopianism associated with the United States. The chapter defines a singular America as a politics, culture, and literature that draws on American exceptionalism only to overturn the latter’s investments in capitalism, settler colonialism, and the nation-state. It argues that American Studies needs to pay more attention to the excluded middle between American exceptionalism and its critique—a zone of politics and culture in which complicity and critique mutually constitute one another. The chapter also explains the connection between the critical discourse of biopolitics and utopianism, reading the work of Michel Foucault in terms of how it refocuses utopianism on the body and life, rather than geography or space. It elaborates a singular America in terms of a literary commons: a tradition of literature devoted to non-capitalist and non-sovereign social relations. Finally, the chapter explains the book’s literary historical trajectory—how it connects the American Renaissance (or mid-nineteenth century) to the contemporary period—in terms of the rise and decline of American hegemony in the capitalist world-system.
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