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Destroying the Armor of "Dignity": Philip Roth on Scandals, Political and Personal

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abstract The American writer Philip Roth (*1933) has experienced the feeling of causing scandals, but he has likewise been inspired by scandals – his own and those of former Presidents. At the beginning of his career, Roth was criticized for his breakthrough novel “Portnoy’s Complaint” (1969), wherein he portrayed the (sexual) woes of a young Jewish man. Roth drew inspiration from the outrage his novel caused in the Jewish community, and he satirized future reproaches of misogyny and anti-Semitism at several instances, but particularly forcefully in "Zuckerman Unbound" (1981). In a similar vein, Roth used political scandals as, on the one hand, stories setting the atmosphere and defining central questions of his novels, for instance in “The Human Stain” (2000). On the other hand, Roth likewise satirized politicians and their scandals, notably Richard Nixon, who is the model for the pre-Watergate closet drama “Our Gang” (1971). Finally, Roth also likes to provoke his readers by inventing scandalous political developments, as he did in “The Plot Against America” (2004) and “Nemesis” (2010).

This paper explores how Philip Roth’s writing is inspired by personal and political scandals, and how he develops imaginary scandals in his counterfactual writings. An analysis of the narrative devices and modes of fictionalization provide insight into the many readings and re-narrations of scandals, as well as into the interplay of fact and fiction. Roth’s oeuvre thus allows us to see the impact of scandals from different angles and helps us imagine possible cultural impacts and consequences for society.
   
type conference paper (English)
   
keywords scandal; Philip Roth; politics and literature; counterfactual; satire; Richard Nixon; Bill Clinton
   
name of conference Scandal!: An Interdisciplinary Conference on the Consequences, Outcomes, and Significance of Political Scandals (University of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania)
date of conference 21-6-2012
page(s) 24
review internal review
   
citation Brühwiler, C. F. (2012). Destroying the Armor of "Dignity": Philip Roth on Scandals, Political and Personal. In , pp.24.