Michael J. Shapiro, Writing Politics: Studies in Compositional Method – Routledge, June 2021
Writing Politics is a methods book designed to instruct on politically focused literary inquiry.
Exploring the political sensibilities that arise from the way literary fiction re-textualizes historical periods and events, the book features a series of violence-themed inquiries that emphasize forms of writing as the vehicles for politically attuned historiography. Each investigation treats the way the literary genre, historiographic metafiction enables political inquiry. It’s a form of writing that inter-articulates history and fiction to rework a textual past and unsettle dominant understandings of events and situations. Central to the diverse chapter are fictional treatments of authoritarian, fascist, or zealous mentalities. Featured, for example, are Radovan Karadzic (the architect of the Bosnian genocide), Reinhard Heydrich (the architect of the Holocaust’s “final solution”), and the Trotsky assassin Ramon Mercader.
Michael J. Shapiro has produced another original and sophisticated bookshelf staple; the only contemporary investigation in Political Studies that instructs on method in this way.
“Michael J. Shapiro’s novel method of bringing fiction to bear upon the question of the political is sure to explode the limits of traditional social-scientific discourses, modes of aesthetic inquiry, and the uncertain relation between them. With impressive interdisciplinary scope and the author’s characteristic exactitude, Writing Politics: Literary Method and Political Theory incisively renders literature’s potential for resistance or radical subversion in the face of the worst instances of mass violence. This is a welcome and refreshing addition to the long-standing and ever-renewing problem of the politics of form.”
Nathan Gorelick, Associate Professor, Utah Valley University
“Writing Politics builds on Mike Shapiro’s formidable body of transdisciplinary scholarship to carefully de-reify and refigure the notion of violence for political thinking. Examining aesthetic explorations of historically situated forms of violent mentalities, this essential book broadens the methodological capacity of political analysis and sharpens our ability to critique violence in our contemporary circumstances.”
Matt Davies, Newcastle University and Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro
“Mike Shapiro exemplifies the master’s sensitivity needed to approach novels as sites for political experimentation, to interrogate political being, and to explore opportunities for the re-textualisation of history. Writing Politics sensitises us through the Barthes-inspired approach of writerly-reading, where as readers, we become the producers of text (thought). True to his erudite and pedagogical style, Shapiro prioritises the imagination of the reader as the vehicle for thought. Highly recommended as fundamental methodology for Political Scientists and students of power.”
Luis Lobo-Guerrero, Professor of History and Theory of International Relations, University of Groningen
“Writing Politics, a timely meditation on authoritarian and fascist rhetoric conducted via an examination of the under-recognized genre of historiographic metafiction, is at the same time what has traditionally been called a defense of poetry—an argument that the devices of literary fiction often get to the heart of political matters in a way that social and psychological theory cannot. It is provocative, deeply thoughtful, and brilliantly executed.”
John Rieder, University of Hawaii
“In Writing Politics Shapiro discusses the power of writing focusing on “mentalities” and the production of intimate violence in the examples spanning from the Balkan war, the Holocaust, to assassinations. Combining literary works – concerned with how events are experienced – and political theory, Shapiro showcases the power of his method. Here philosophical ideas turn from dry concepts to rich reservoirs of emotions, complexities and layers of character enriching social and political analysis. Writing Politics is an outstanding book written in Shapiro’s unique style.”
Andreja Zevnik, Senior Lecturer in International Politics, University of Manchester