William V. Spanos is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Binghamton University, State University of New York. He is the author of many books, including American Exceptionalism in the Age of Globalization: The Specter of Vietnam and Herman Melville and the American Calling: The Fiction after Moby-Dick, 18511857, both also published by SUNY Press.
The Vietnam War is at the center of this book. In the contradiction between the "free world" logic employed to justify U.S. intervention in Vietnam and the genocidal practices used to realize that logic, Spanos finds the culmination of an imperialistic discourse reaching back to the colonizing rationale of the Roman Empire. Spanos identifies the language of expansion in the "white" metaphors in Western philosophical discourse since the colonization of Greek thought by the Romans. He shows how these metaphors, and their role in metaphysical discourse, have long been complicit in the violence of imperialism.
The exceptionalism that Redeemer Nation in the Interregnum renders starkly visible is not a corrigible ideological screen. It is a deeply structured ethos that functions simultaneously on ontological, moral, economic, racial, gendered, and political registers as the American Calling. Precisely by refusing to answer the American Calling, by rendering inoperative (in Agamben’s sense) its covenantal summons, Spanos enables us to imagine an alternative America.
At once timely and personal, Spanos’s meditation acknowledges the priority of being. He emphasizes the dignity not simply of humanity but of all phenomena on the continuum of being, “the groundless ground of any political formation that would claim the name of democracy.”