Presidential Unrealities

Presidential Unrealities: Epistemic Panic, Cultural Work, and the US Presidency

Dr. Sebastian M. Herrmann (webpage)
American Studies Leipzig
Leipzig, Germany

This project investigates the cultural work done by discussions of 'presidential unreality' in various fiction and non-fiction texts. Since the 1960s, US-American culture has used the presidency to express a deep concern about the construction of artificial, medial reality. In the discourses operating the motif of 'presidential unreality,' the US president thus emerges as either the source or the product of media-generated images and 'unreal' narratives.

Bypassing the question of whether such assessments of a decreasing 'realness' in politics, a rise of artifice and a decline of fact, are justified or not, this project explores the cultural work done by the resulting discussions. To do so, it scrutinizes movies, novels, non-fiction books, and newspaper articles to ask in how far these texts' discussions of presidential unreality constitute a popularization of a more general postmodern 'epistemic panic,' a deep cultural concern about the limitations both of realness and of the extent to which the real can be known.


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The resulting book is available in print as of June 2014 and can be ordered through amazon or via its publisher, Winter Verlag.

Herrmann, Sebastian M. Presidential Unrealities: Epistemic Panic, Cultural Work, and the US Presidency. Heidelberg: Winter, 2014. Print. American Studies - A Monograph Series.