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Political Initiation in the Works of Philip Roth

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abstract This thesis exemplifies how literature can help political science understand the ways in which individuals develop their political identity, learn to understand po¬litical ideas, and define their role in society. The formula suggested to encapsulate these developments is “political initiation,” a term which bridges the gaps be¬tween political science, literary theory, and anthropology. Thereby, political so¬cialization research, the branch of political science usually concerned with in¬dividual political awakenings, can broaden its perspective for the mechanisms of self-creation that both anthropology and literary science have unraveled. In this vein, an individual’s political coming of age may be read as a political initiation story, which is crafted as much by the individual himself as by the circumstances influencing him, such as political events or the political attitude of the parents. Methodologically, this means that political scientists who read fiction should con¬sider a literary character’s development in context, decipher his dependence on other figures, and focus on the political, social and historical context in which the character is embedded.
Philip Roth’s characters are masters of self-invention, re-creation, imperso¬nation and disguise: They constantly re-write their own stories and experiment with their identities. In addition, Roth likes to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction, thus further challenging allegedly stable categories, such as identity it¬self. Accordingly, his works enable the political scientist interested in literature to explore, for instance, what roles stories themselves play for an individual’s per¬ception of politics – or fails to do so. While at times Roth’s plots and characters illustrate the findings of political socialization research, they may also contribute to the understanding of phenomena with regard to which political science has reached an impasse or has not yet established a consensus. In this manner, Roth presents the reader with answers to terrorism’s “why?” which may be counter¬intuitive to many political scientists.
As Philip Roth’s works demonstrate, literature can confront political science with challenging counter-realities, and force it to consider aspects it has hitherto neglected.
   
type thesis (English)
   
keywords Philip Roth; initiation; political socialization; politics and literature.
   
project Political Initiation in the Novels of Philip Roth
university St. Gallen
publisher Difo-Druck (Bamberg)
date of appearance 2010
citation Brühwiler, C. F. (2010). Political Initiation in the Works of Philip Roth, St. Gallen, Thesis. Bamberg: Difo-Druck.