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This report is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

The Architecture of Exile Stanley Tigerman

We are in a time of exile. Postmodernist Americans, like the residents of the Renaissance, are as much involved with their yearning for another, simpler time as they are with their own problems. America is a land of foundlings and orphans; detached from their proper parenthood, they wander in search of legitimacy in a world of other histories composed of longer periods of time. Americans, collectively displaced from the many lands of their separate origins, are torn between the desire to gain knowledge of their roots and the knowledge that this information will do them little good, once attained. Like all foundlings, 'the desire to return' animates American existence.

For postmodernist Americans, exile is based on two paradigms: first, the yearning for knowledge of their heritage, romantically heightened by the distance of history; and second, their identification with the Renaissance, the other epoch historically where desire for intersecting with earlier, innocent models preoccupied the collective minds of the time. The twentieth-century condition of disruption overturned the previous evolutionary build-up of Western theology and philosophy.

Finally, the aggregation of two world wars, a holocaust of unimaginable proportions, and the threat of nuclear destruction, overcame traditionally evolutionary philosophy and created a mood of hopelessness and despair which was articulated by existentialism.

While Europe was the original twentieth-century site wherein despair and hopelessness were identified and fleshed out, it was America where this passion play was to be acted out. Because of the condition of exile ...


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