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A Desire Called AmericaBiopolitics, Utopia, and the Literary Commons$
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Christian P. Haines

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823286942

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823286942.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FORDHAM SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.fordham.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Fordham University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FSO for personal use.date: 24 September 2021

A Revolutionary Haunt: Utopian Frontiers in William S. Burroughs’s Late Trilogy

A Revolutionary Haunt: Utopian Frontiers in William S. Burroughs’s Late Trilogy

(p.33) Chapter 1 A Revolutionary Haunt: Utopian Frontiers in William S. Burroughs’s Late Trilogy
A Desire Called America

Christian P. Haines

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines William S. Burroughs’ late trilogy of novels—Cities of the Red Night (1981), The Place of Dead Roads (1983), and The Western Lands (1987)—as a critical response to American neoliberalism. It analyzes what Burroughs terms the trilogy’s retroactive utopianism, or the way in which it reactivates the potential of historical revolutions (including the American Revolution and the global revolts of the 1960s) as a way of reimagining the future of global politics. Focusing on The Place of Dead Roads, the chapter shows how Burroughs combines science fiction and the Western to envision the Frontier in utopian terms. It argues that Burroughs’s fiction builds on the politics of the multitude, or the antisystemic politics of the late 1990s to the present, articulating a vision of the nation in terms of communal property, egalitarian relations, and democratic self-rule.

Keywords:   biopolitics, William S. Burroughs, Michael Hardt, multitude, Antonio Negri, neoliberalism, revolution, utopia

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