This article explores John Steinbeck’s Vietnam War journalism as a way of understanding how hawks—those who favor military intervention—read the world with what affect theorists would call a “strong theory” of aggression. I argue that hawkish reading weaponizes the rhetorical precepts of synecdoche, taking its premise that a part can represent a whole as a means to escalate and invade. Steinbeck’s journalism demonstrates how hawkish reading occurs not only in a hawk’s depiction of the enemy abroad, but inevitably becomes a way of depicting protestors at home. What hawkish reading shows is how the hawk is dedicated to maintaining his strong theory of aggression at any cost, even when the hawk’s depictions perpetuate cliché, stereotype, and ultimately, demagoguery. To explore texts like Steinbeck’s for their hawkish reading is to better understand not only how the hawk uses facile language to create intense attachments, but also to better understand how the hawk’s language creates dissensus at home.
"Hawkish Reading: John Steinbeck and the Vietnam War,"
Criticism: Vol. 64:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol64/iss1/4