Dr. Kathleen Hohenleitner


This essay argues that "Isaac and Ishmael" constitutes a contemporary example of both the American jeremiad and the American captivity genre with captivity operating on several levels, all of which reinforce the myths, ideals, and ideology of American dominant culture during a time of crisis: in this instance, the period immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent "War on Terrorism." The qualities present in "Isaac and Ishmael" that are characteristic of captivity narratives and jeremiads are physical and psychological captivity, the need to establish the author's credibility, prescribed and sometimes transgressed gender roles that promote heterosexuality and a stable family as "normal," a sense of declension or crisis and the need to return to normalcy, and a black-and-white mentality. All of these are present in The West Wing's "Isaac and Ishmael," and all can be found in standard pieces of the captivity genre.

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