The Paranoid Chronotope
Power, Truth, Identity
Frida Beckman


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: The Paranoid Chronotope
chapter abstract

Outlines the central concepts and problematics of the book, situating the study in relation to twenty-first century phenomena such as populist politics, conspiracy theories, and aggressive white masculinity. The chapter provides definitions of paranoia and identifies key characteristics. It then introduces, develops, and exemplifies the core concept of the paranoid chronotope with help from the "usual suspects" of paranoid fiction such as William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, and Don DeLillo. A brief history of the concept of the liberal subject and its centrality to American identity and politics is provided, focusing in particular on its relevance to white male identity. With this background, the chapter begins to explain the prevalence of white masculinity in paranoid politics.

1 The Public Sphere and Paranoia / The Paranoid Public Sphere
chapter abstract

Discusses the concept of the public sphere, its role in understanding and negotiating power and truth, and the positioning of the individual in relation to it. The chapter traces key conceptions of and debates on this sphere and notes how developments reaching from the 1950s to the present have resulted in an increasing uncertainty about how to locate and identify power, where to find truth, who can provide facts, and what social and political reality is and how it affects individual agency and identity. Contemporary debates on critique are outlined and put in relation to developments of the public sphere and the contemporary paranoid climate.

2 Power and Paranoia / Paranoid Powers
chapter abstract

Theorizes key underpinnings of paranoid developments over past decades in terms of shifts in power structures from discipline to control focusing on the increasing invisibility of power in society. An analysis of Dave Eggers' novel Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (2014) illuminates how a cultural and literary heritage shaped by stronger institutions and identities contributes to difficulties in comprehending and representing contemporary modes of control. The chapter then underlines the suspicious hermeneutics it itself employs. The final section continues the discussion of critique and postcritique initiated in Chapter 1 by outlining and analyzing the interrelations between critique, literature, and "Theory" in an American academic context.

3 Truth and Paranoia / Paranoid Truths
chapter abstract

Identifies mechanisms of truth as they have developed in recent decades, investigating what it sees as a set of key factors in the development leading up to "post-truth society." Discusses the unmoored and seemingly plastic status of information, communication, and experts, and looks at how technological and neoliberal developments contribute to this state of affairs. The chapter reads Patrick Flanery's novel I Am No One (2016), which shows how surveillance and disembodied "facts" make truth increasingly hard to grasp. It then returns to the question of critique to discuss ways in which questions of who will know the truth and who will be the bearer of knowledge are affected by a crisis in the university and in expertise.

4 Identity and Paranoia / Paranoid Identities
chapter abstract

Employs the concept of the paranoid chronotope to illuminate how the fraught relations between individuals and the public sphere give rise to paranoid identity formations. Identifying such formations—polarizing, populist, and nationalist agendas—as strongly undergirded by a fraught white masculinity, it situates this in terms of a perverted form of identity politics. The chapter analyzes Ben Lerner's novel 10:04 (2014) and shows how the identity crisis of white American masculinity is articulated from the perspective of a literary tradition. The final section builds on the sections on critique in previous chapters and emphasizes a general ambivalence regarding how, and whether, to be suspicious in a contemporaneity that is itself infused by such dispositions. Ultimately, the chapter argues that postcritique emerges from a reconceived and increasingly paranoid chronotope of thinking that the book has traced in American society, politics, and culture at large.