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Myth-making and Uchronia: The Advent of a Fascist America in Nathanael West’s A Cool Million (1934)

Abstract : Nathanael West’s A Cool Million (1934) has been largely viewed as both a deadpan parody of the «Rags to Riches» success story popularized by Horatio Alger and a satire on nascent fascism in Depression-era America. In the novel, two storylines cross-pollinate: ex-President Nathan «Shagpoke» Whipple’s successful fascist revolution and young Lemuel Pitkin’s thwarted Algeresque success story. As young Pitkin gets dismantled and eventually assassinated, the retrained politician sets out to create his own Revolutionary Party to save his country from decay. This paper will re-articulate the two trajectories and show how they actually inform an American fascist myth. I will argue that in the context of the Depression, A Cool Million emerges as a uchronia, an alternate history dramatizing the advent of a dictator who decides to exterminate all that is un-American, seizing upon Lemuel Pitkin’s martyr to forge and enunciate the official mythology of the new political regime.
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https://hal-amu.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01508108
Contributor : Frank Conesa <>
Submitted on : Thursday, April 13, 2017 - 6:03:10 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 2, 2020 - 1:16:13 PM

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Frank Conesa. Myth-making and Uchronia: The Advent of a Fascist America in Nathanael West’s A Cool Million (1934). Les Cahiers de Framespa : Nouveaux champs de l'histoire sociale, FRAMESPA, 2017, ⟨10.4000/framespa.4276⟩. ⟨hal-01508108⟩

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