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The Literary Dimension to U.S. Foreign Policy: A Critique of Deep Engagement

Fri, November 11, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Omni Parker, Floor: Mezzanine, Harriet Beecher Stowe


This paper uses an interpretive method to make sense of contemporary debates on U.S. foreign policy. This study argues that the discourse of “deep engagement” (which describes the United States as the world’s “necessary” or “indispensable” power) can be understood as a social narrative. First, this work distinguishes literary and social narratives. Like literary narratives, social narratives have a story, plot, and an argument. Unlike literary narratives, however, social narratives become prevalent through what is called multiplicity, which is the act of being repeated, with variation, across contexts. Such echoes strengthen the narrative. Next, this work examines the narrative of deep engagement, which portrays the United States as necessary to global stability, peace, and the potential for prosperity. In a third section, this study draws on the international relations (IR) traditions of realism and radicalism to formulate a critique of deep engagement. Finally, it uses the case of U.S. rhetoric towards Ukraine to demonstrate both the narrative of deep engagement and the potency of the critique.