The Modern American Novel of Violence

The Modern American Novel of Violence

The Modern American Novel of Violence

The Modern American Novel of Violence

Synopsis

"An addendum to W. M. Frohock's 'The Novel of Violence in America, 1920-1950' (1950), Shaw's volume further defines violence and provides lengthy essays on a novel by each of eight authors not covered by Frohock¿Porter, Capote. Vonnegut, Doctorow, McCarthy, Morrison, Selby, and Ellis. . . . Students and scholars dealing with any of the writers Shaw covers will appreciate his detailed essays on specific novels. Recommended for libraries supporting coursework in the modern novel at the upper-division undergraduate level and above."¿Choice

Excerpt

I need first to define two crucial terms as they are used in this study: violence and novel of violence. As an indication of how difficult that defining task can be, we might recall that George Bush set up a President's committee called the Federal Violence Initiative. Though the initiative was widely supported, not only did the committee fail to define "violence" but its efforts to do so created such political turmoil that the Initiative was soon dissolved.

My own working definition is less volatile. It derives from several commonsensical definitions of violence that have been offered over the years. Leonard D. Eron quotes from John Dollard's Frustration and Aggression (1939) to note that violence is "an act whose goal-response is injury to an organism (or organism-surrogate)" (Huesmann 4). In The History of Violence in America: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (1969), editorsHugh Davis Graham and Ted Robert Gurr define violence as "behavior designed to inflict physical injury to people or damage to property" (xxxii). Hans Toch, in Violent Men (1984), says that "the behavior we shall deal with [i.e., violence] is injurious is rarely planned, and almost invariably is affect-laden" (1). Michael Kowalewski, in Deadly Musings: Violence and Verbal Form in American Fiction (1993) says that "Violence is thus popularly understood as an act of aggression that is usually destructive, antisocial, and degrading in its consequences and that usually seems deliberate" (7). Benjamin B. Wolman defines violence as "physical or verbal behavior that aims at harming and/or destroying someone or something. Violent behavior is a part of nature, and nature is violent" (xv). Laura E. Tanner, in her study of sexual assaults against women entitled Intimate Violence: Reading Rape and Torture in Twentieth-Century Fiction (1996), concludes that in such attacks "the forceful imposition of . . .

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