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April 18, 2005



On that sense of the tragic in American culture: perhaps we have nothing to compare to the sense of al-Andalus, but maybe we can identify some cultural strands of our own great losses.
The Southern imagination of the Civil War, for example, is generally cast as a tragedy, complete with high values, doomed odds, heroic behavior, and nobility somehow undercut by fate. The necessary companion to that representation is the black American consideration of the long experience of slavery.
More recently, American writing about Vietnam is usually tragic. Consider how inappropriately heroic is The Green Berets as novel and film, and contrast with the intense tragic vision of any given Vietnam film. For writing, a reading of Stuart O'Nan's massive collection, or any given set of novels, confirms this sense. At times American writing about that war darkens beyond the tragic to the satiric, or the horrfic, but the argumentative sense of tragedy, its glimpse of goodness failing is more pervasive.
The largest span of time I can think of would be various native American nations, imagining their dispossession from (most of) a continent.

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