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Powers of PossibilityExperimental American Writing since the 1960s$
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Alex Houen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199609291

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609291.001.0001

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(p.ix) (p.x) (p.1) Introduction
Powers of Possibility

Alex Houen

Oxford University Press

With references ranging from Aristotle and Spinoza to Agamben, the Introduction starts with consideration of how individuals’ capacities and faculties have been conceived in terms of potentiality. Drawing on Foucault and others, it discusses how such capacities have increasingly been regulated as labour power and purchasing power. This bears on assertions that postmodernism's predominance of late‐capitalism undermines culturally combative possibilities of individual freedom and literary experimentation. Such an assertion has, however, been contested by various American activists, theorists, and writers since the 1960s. The Introduction outlines how some of those contestations are taken up in the subsequent chapters. It also shows how ‘potentiality’ has frequently been invoked by theorists of postmodernism, postmodern avant‐gardism, and literary ‘possible worlds’, although the theorists have not considered at length how the complex meanings of potentiality bear on both individual capacity and literary possibility.

Keywords:   potentiality, postmodernism, possible worlds, power, avant‐garde, realism, 1960s, experimental writing

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