This thesis is concerned with bringing to light the importance of presentism - an approach to literary studies which has been heavily maligned by critics in the past. Presentism, which has developed from literary critical forms of historicism, “explicitly evok[es] the present concerns that motivate a desire to reread old literature” (Egan 2013: p.39) by theorising “the critic as temporal mediator who owns up to constructing meaning” (Gajowski 2010: p. 674). Amidst the 2016 presidential victory of Donald Trump, the sales of three books sky-rocketed, signalling a correlation between despotisms of the past and adaptive totalitarianisms of the twenty-first century. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, each gained a newfound relevance in the weeks just after Trump’s victory. In my thesis, I will focus on how the rediscovery of a novel, a play and a philosophical text is fundamental in understanding the essence of cult leadership in an age of fake news. Moreover, I will analyse how Trump’s presidency has moved the discourse of authoritarianism from the distant past to the centre of American politics.
|Date of Award||2023|
|Supervisor||David Rudrum (Main Supervisor) & James Underwood (Co-Supervisor)|