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Storied Citizenship: Imagining the Citizen in American Literature

Ina Batzke, Katja Sarkowsky

Pages 367 - 382



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“Citizenship” has seen an astounding revival as an analytical category, not only in Political Theory and the Social Sciences but also in Literary and Cultural Studies. Through “storying” citizenship (Chariandy), works of literature can productively negotiate established “civic myths” of citizenship (Thomas), i. e., stories about normative national membership; moreover, they point to contradictions, inclusions and exclusions, and shifts in understandings of what constitutes a citizen in a globalized world. This introduction provides an overview of important issues and approaches that have shaped “citizenship” as an analytical category in American Literary Studies in the past fifteen years. Focusing on the (largely neglected) systematic distinction between “citizenship” and “the citizen,” it highlights the necessity of scrutinizing how literature imagines and narrates particular kinds of citizens and how such images tie in with, counter, or modify long-standing normative models of the citizen—in short, how literature “stories” citizenship and the citizen as potentially both normative and emancipatory concepts of political belonging and participation.

Keywords: storied citizenship; civic myth; proliferation of citizenship; Cincinnatus

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