War Stars

War Stars : The Superweapon in American Culture

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This cultural history of the superweapon in American society compares the history of American military technology and modern military theory and practice with the image of the nuclear arms race as seen in modern literature and film. The author offers a critical analysis of the historical and imaginative predicament created by these weapons. Franklin argues that neither American weapons nor American culture can be understood in isolation from each other. Continually emerging from the culture, the weapons continually transform the culture, and understanding this process may be a first step in discovering an escape from it.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 27.94mm | 612.35g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195052951
  • 9780195052954

About H. Bruce Franklin

About the Author H. Bruce Franklin, author or editor of fifteen books on culture and history, is The John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University.show more

Review Text

Heavy-handed cultural criticism from Franklin (English and American Studies/Rutgers), author of Back Where You Came From (1975) and The Victim as Criminal and Artist (1978), among others. Franklin takes as his theme the propensity of the American imagination to conjure up all manner of superweapons as a means of putting an end to warfare, referencing fact (such as Robert Fulton's conceptions of his steamship, torpedo, and submarine as saviors of humanity from the scourge of then-existing seapower) and fiction (over 200 novels and movies through the past century and a half) to make his point. Franklin sees the superoptimism of past American dreamers, coupled with a strain of cultural chauvinism, as the direct antecedents of Reagan's pronouncements on Star Wars. Franklin seems to be on sounder ground here than in some of his previous works, which were suffocated by a radical sensibility. However, his critiquing of countless science-fiction works to buttress his point occasionally comes across as stretching the point; the world of reality would have sufficed, what with Fulton's fulminations; Woodrow Wilson's simplistic "war to end all wars"; Billy Mitchell's mythic desire to use air power to bring peace; or the Strategic Air Command's own motto: "Peace is our Profession." But Franklin finds significance in everything (even in a 1984 video game, "1942," that instructs players: "Your objective is to destroy Tokyo"). In the end, then, Franklin bludgeons his point to death, engaging in the sort of literary overkill that he criticizes in the military realm. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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