First published in 1977, The Public Burning combines a dramatic representation of the last three days of the so-called “atomic spies”, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, with a satirical portrait of Richard Nixon. Bawdy, scatological, and devastating in its political and historical ruminations, it is Robert Coover’s best-known work, and considered by many to be both a comic and postmodernist masterpiece.
The novel stemmed from Coover’s belief in the mid-1960s that the executions of the Rosenbergs in 1953, which he considered “the watershed event for America”, had virtually disappeared from public consciousness (Bell 2000: 7). His original intention was to transform the executions into a piece of radical street theatre,…
Citation: Savvas, Theophilus. "The Public Burning". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 08 February 2011 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=7487, accessed 23 September 2023.]