President Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006) have received positive and extensive critical attention from both professional reviewers and University scholars. While literary intellectuals have praised Obama's memoirs for the style in which he composed them, social scientists and partisan political analysts have thus far generally monopolized discussion of President Obama's writings. Yet there has been a recent surge of interest in the literary merits of Obama's writings. Our volume understands "literary" to indicate a host of a priori relationships that successful, artful writing brings to the surface of a written work. These are instantiated in narrative form, thereby revealing what Edward W. Said famously defined as the "worldliness" of the literary object. In the case of President Obama's writings, and Dreams from My Father in particular, those relationships are evident in the author's negotiation of literary tradition, rhetorical modes and historical narratives.
By positioning the "literary" at this vantage, at the point where writing and the world converge, the volume's contributors assert the indispensable, and urgent, import of understanding the President not only in political terms, but, more importantly, in literary terms that place him within a long tradition of American literary-political authorship.