Faculty Writing: The John McCain Phenomenon and New York Sublime

In the Baffler, Patrick Blanchfield examines the personal history and media phenomenon of John McCain. What makes McCain catnip to the sententious white men (and, sometimes, women) who occupy the upper reaches of the American political commentariat? “Probably the central key to the Phenomenon,” Blanchfield writes, “is how John McCain’s story activates some of the most deep-seated beliefs and potent feelings of contemporary, post-draft America … Constantly toggling between identifying with McCain as their fantasy image of themselves and self-deprecatingly worshipping him as the True Hero they could never be, most American pundits were thus able to avoid assessing McCain for what he actually was and for what he actually did—all the better to avoid confronting those same truths about themselves. McCain, for his part, nobly ratified their self-flattery by letting them flatter him, which he enjoyed. Together he and they operated in a perfect circuit of mutual self-satisfaction…”

In Gotham, Jeffrey Escoffier and co-author Jeffrey Patrick Colgan discuss the art of David Wojnarowicz and the insight it provides “into the New York City of his time and the profound ideological and structural shifts that were occurring.” Write Escoffier and Colgan: “Out of the overwhelming and potentially annihilating social and political disasters of the period, Wojnarowicz managed … to create a powerful aesthetic response that both channeled the political anger and found beauty, pleasure, and life amidst the pain—a political-aesthetic perspective that we might tentatively call the sublime.”