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The Survival of a President: Alternate history and the spectre of Vietnam in Stephen King’s 11/22/63

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The assassination of John F. Kennedy has haunted American cultural history for more than half a century, a moment that Stephen King explores in his 2012 novel, 11/22/63. The assassination has become a moment recognized more widely within the world’s collective consciousness. It has been written about in fiction, analysed in documentaries, reproduced in film, and even in recreated in videogames. King’s 11/22/63 enters into a literary tradition that spans many years with literary appropriations of Kennedy’s death extending beyond historical representations of the figures and events surrounding the assassination. This is achieved by speculating on the prospective consequences of erasing the trauma of the shooting from America’s cultural memory and presenting an alternate history in which the President the assassination. King’s use of alternate history in 11/22/63 and the survival of the President within that narrative, allows the reader to examine the Kennedy assassination and its repercussions in detail, both in terms of the conspiracy theories that surround the shooting, the ramifications of the President’s death, and his hypothetical survival. This paper uses King’s novel to consider whether the ability to change past events should be undertaken, even if they can be, through this pivotal and globally recognized event.
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Keywords: 11/22/63; Kennedy assassination; Stephen King; Vietnam War; alternate history; time travel

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Lancaster University 2: Independent

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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