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25 Van Zant Street, Unit 1B3
Norwalk, CT 06855-1702

In Quest of Nothing: Selected Essays, 1998–2008

By Ihab Hassan

Edited by Klaus Stierstorfer

LC 2010015009
ISBN-10: 0-404-61599-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-404-61599-4

AMS Studies in Modern Literature, No. 29

In these new essays Ihab Hassan, a leading international critic of literature and contemporary culture, probes urgent themes of our clime: truth, trust, the immanence of spirit in everyday life. The path of his explorations runs through many worldly concerns: autobiography, travel, the prevalence of media, the plight of the American Dream, the anguished cry of identity in diasporic times. But the path also leads beyond these concerns, toward visions of the verge.

Hassan writes in his introduction: “These are late essays, when age, baffled by itself and the years, aspires to a second innocence—seeks nothing though still driven by importunate youth.” In Quest of Nothing thus comes as a mature statement of self-dispossession, honoring commitment above partisanship, invoking disprized “negative capability,” a kenotic ideal.

This statement is rendered in a style of great clarity and elegance, skirting the edges of poetry.

Ihab Hassan is a distinguished American literary critic and writer whose career spans the twentieth century from the New Criticism to Postmodernism and beyond. Born in Cairo, he emigrated to the United States; educated as an electrical engineer, he emigrated to literature and cultural studies. Hassan emerged from these experiences with degrees (B.S., M.S., M.A., Ph.D.) in science and literature as well as honorary doctorates (honoris causa) from the University of Uppsala in Sweden and Giessen in Germany. Hassan has been praised for a style that is at once lucid and poetic, impermeable to the jargon of the moment. His work ranges from the pioneering study of postwar American fiction Radical Innocence to critiques of the mavericks and giants of contemporary writing in The Dismemberment of Orpheus; from explorations of travel and quest in Selves at Risk to perceptions of his own life’s journey in Out of Egypt and Between the Eagle and the Sun: Traces of Japan. His earlier essay collection The Postmodern Turn has become a classic reference on the subject.


Editor’s Preface

Author’s Introduction

Section I: Autobiography and Travel
1.   In No Strange Land: Sections of a Memoir
2.   The Food of the Gods
3.   Australian Journeys
4.   Maps and Stories
Section II: Geopolitics and Postcolonial Studies
5.   Queries for Postcolonial Studies
6.   The Eagle, the Olive Branch, and the Dream: Changing Perceptions of America in the World
7.   A Terrible Simplicity Is Born: Fifteen Rocks in the Gardens of Violence
8.   Changelings in Janglish: Or, How Australian Is It?
Section III: Postmodernism and Beyond
9.   Beyond Postmodernism: Toward an Aesthetic of Trust
10.  Realism Redux: A Postmodern Perspective
11.  Postmodernism? A Self-Interview
Section IV: Spirit, Truth, Trust, and the Void
12.  The Expense of Spirit in Postmodern Times: Between Nihilism and Belief
13.  The Authority of the Void
14.  The Eureka File: The Roles of Belief, Chance, and the Void in Innovation
15.  The Way We Have Become: A Surfeit of Seeming
Envoy: Empty Attachment, a Story


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
In quest of nothing : selected essays, 1998–2008 / by Ihab Hassan; edited by Klaus Stierstorfer.
     p. cm. — (AMS studies in modern literature, ISSN 0270-2983 ; no. 29)
     Includes bibliographical references.
     ISBN 978-0-404-61599-4 (cloth : alk. paper)
     1. Literature, Modern—20th century—History and criticism—Theory, etc.
     2. Postmodernism (Literature)
     3. Literature, Modern—21st century—History and criticism—Theory, etc.
     I. Stierstorfer, Klaus.
     II. Title.
     III. Title.
PN771.H336 2010
809'.9113—dc22                                                       2010015009