Tense Future falls into two parts. The first develops a critical account of total war discourse and addresses the resistant potential of acts, including acts of writing, before a future that looks barred or predetermined by war.
Part two shifts the focus to long interwar narratives that pit both their scale and their formal turbulence against total war's portrait of the social totality, producing both ripostes and alternatives to that portrait in thepractice of literary encyclopedism.
The book's introduction grounds both parts in the claim that industrialized warfare, particularly the aerial bombing of cities, intensifies an under-examined form of collective traumatization: a pretraumatic syndrome in which the anticipation of future-conditional violence inducespsychic wounds.
Situating this claim in relation to other scholarship on "critical futurities," Saint-Amour discusses its ramifications for trauma studies, historical narratives generally, and the historiography of the interwar period in particular.
The introduction ends with an account of the weak theory of modernism now structuring the field of modernist studies, and of weak theory's special suitability for opposing total war, that strongest of strong theories.