The Poetics of Insecurity turns the emerging field of literary security studies upside down. Rather than tying the prevalence of security to a culture of fear, Johannes Voelz shows how American literary writers of the past two hundred years have mobilized insecurity to open unforeseen and uncharted horizons of possibility for individuals and collectives. In a series of close readings of works by Charles Brockden Brown, Harriet Jacobs, Willa Cather, Flannery O'Connor, and Don DeLillo, Voelz brings to light a cultural imaginary in which conventional meanings of security and insecurity are frequently reversed, so that security begins to appear as deadening and insecurity as enlivening. Timely, broad-ranging, and incisive, Johannes Voelz's study intervenes in debates on American literature as well as in the interdisciplinary field of security studies. It fundamentally challenges our existing explanations for the pervasiveness of security in American cultural and political life.