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Fiction and the Struggle for Recognition

Winfried Fluck

Pages 689 - 709


In the past decades the concept of recognition has moved to the center of social theory. Can this concept be of use for American Studies and, more specifically, American literary and cultural studies? My essay tries to answer this question in five parts: first, a discussion of two opposite views of the social and cultural role of recognition exemplified by Charles Taylor and Alexis de Tocqueville; second, a reconsideration of the concept of identity, since recognition is inextricably linked with questions of identity formation in current debates; third, a description of the ways in which the struggle for recognition stands at the center of fictional texts and forms an imaginary core that has often been forgotten in the professionalization of literary studies; fourth, an analysis of how recognition can be understood and described as an effect of the reading experience (and of aesthetic experience more generally); and fifth, a return to the starting question of this essay, namely what the concept of recognition can contribute to American Studies and how it can be assessed in comparison with other, currently dominant approaches in the field.


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