№11 2021

УДК / UDK: 821.111

Author: Michael Bowden
About the author:

Michael Bowden, PhD student, The University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9JT, United Kingdom.


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The ascendency of Donald Trump to President of the United States was marked by the concretisation of the “post-truth” era, an era in which brazen falsehoods not only withstood counterclaims to veracity but seemed to derive their legitimacy from their opposition to readily accepted truths. Epitomised by Kellyanne Conway’s infamous promulgation of “alternative facts,” the defining characteristic of post-truth politics seemed to be that the content of an utterance mattered less than the shamelessness with which it was uttered. It evidenced a divorce between traditional concepts of sincerity and the truth on which such sincerity was traditionally premised, allowing for the post-truth manipulation of shamelessness to make the most forceful claim over the sincere. This trend, I will argue in this essay, has its roots in the abundance of cynicism that beset American postmodernism, which along with post-truth shamelessness also gave rise to the cultural need for a new understanding of sincerity. I intend to trace how Fyodor Dostoevsky’s work influenced one of the foremost proponents of such new sincerity, the novelist David Foster Wallace. Giving particular focus to Dostoevsky’s emphasis on shame in his post-Siberian works, especially in the portrayal of Fyodor Karamazov, I will argue that such emphasis has its correspondence in Emmanuel Levinas’s theorisation of the ethical. I will conclude by suggesting that Levinasian ethics, which represent a departure from the totalising tendency of Enlightenment philosophy, might thereby serve as the basis for a new type of sincerity, one that maintains a sense of the ethical in the face of post-truth shamelessness.

Keywords: Fyodor Dostoevsky, David Foster Wallace, Donald Trump, shamelessness, New Sincerity, Emmanuel Levinas, ethics.
For citation:

Bowden, Michael. “Shamelessness and New Sincerity: Dostoevsky, David Foster Wallace, and Trump’s America.” Literature of the Americas, no. 11 (2021): 155–182. 


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