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Desiring Brotherhood


Benning soldier from Alabama. In 1939, they moved to Fayetteville,

North Carolina, a small army town in which the writer created the

setting and plot of

Reflections in a Golden Eye.

According to Kaplan, the assumption that the American

struggle for independence from the British Empire makes the U.S.

essentially anti-imperialist has been an enduring paradigm of

studies of American culture. This ideology of “American

exceptionalism” has contributed to three notable omissions that

characterize the discourse of American studies: “the absence of

culture from the history of U. S. imperialism; the absence of

empire from the study of American culture; and the absence of the

United States from the postcolonial study of imperialism” (Kaplan,

1993: 11). As a key figure of post-Americanist studies, Kaplan

critiques the ethnocentrism of the previous generation of

Americanists and aims at “relating those internal categories of

gender, race, and ethnicity to the global dynamics of

empire-building” (16). In her efforts to link the global to those

mundane fields of the everyday and the affective, Kaplan exposes

American national identity’s imperial unconscious, and explores

the infiltration of this unconscious into multiple facets of American

culture to become “a way of life” (14). Taking cues from Kaplan, I

argue that

Reflections in a Golden Eye

needs to be read as a

cultural text entangled with American imperialism. Although the

period between World Wars I and II is generally referred to as a

period of isolationism, this is not to say that the U.S. ceased her

project of expansion and aggrandizement in the 1920s and 1930s.

According to the anti-imperialist historian, Charles Austin Beard,

this period witnessed a “return to the more aggressive ways . . . to

protect and advance the claims of American business enterprise”

(Buzzanco, 2014). As Robert Buzzanco writes: “In addition to

reestablishing and augmenting economic ties to a rebuilding

Europe and pressing for a greater opening of Asian markets,

American officials and corporations continued to move into Latin

America in pursuit of expanded business opportunities” (Buzzanco,