Introduction: American Anxieties

No ship that under sail or steam
Have gathered people to us more and more
But, Pilgrim-manned, the Mayflower in a dream
Has been her anxious convoy in to shore.
                                     Robert Frost, "Immigrants"

Pregnant, Pill-Free, and Panicked” (Nutting), “Nothing to Do but Embrace the Dread” (Smith), and “You Are Going to Die” (Kreider). These titles are taken from a popular Opinionator series on the New York Times web presence that ran from 2011 to 2013 and responded to the public’s desire to read about and comment on personal anxieties.1 More than seventy related articles create the impression that any aspect of life, from unemployment (Anderson) to body images (Stanley) and household appliances (Rutkowski), can be a source of anxiety and that anxiety, while also being a symptom of clinical disorders, is a common and widespread part of American life. Not only does the extent of individual anxieties indicated by the web series’s presence show that people find plenty of reasons to be anxious but the popularity of the series reveals anxiety to be a mass cultural phenomenon. Hence, aspeers has decided to devote its seventh issue to an exploration of the cultural dynamics at the heart of the interconnections between Americanness and considering oneself anxious.

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