Affirmative Reaction explores the cultural politics of heteronormative white masculine privilege in the United States. Through close readings of texts ranging from the popular television drama 24 to the Marvel Comics miniseries The Call of Duty, and from the reality show American Chopper to the movie Million Dollar Baby, Hamilton Carroll argues that the true privilege of white masculinity—and its defining strategy—is not to be unmarked, universal, or invisible, but to be mobile and mutable. He describes how, in response to the perceived erosions of privilege produced by post–civil rights era identity politics, white masculinity has come to rely on the very discourses of difference that unsettled its claims on the universal; it has redefined itself as a marginalized identity.
Throughout Affirmative Reaction, Carroll examines the kinds of difference white masculinity claims for itself as it attempts to hold onto or maintain majority privilege. Whether these are traditional sites of minority difference—such as Irishness, white trash, or domestic melodrama—or reworked sites of masculinist investment—including laboring bodies, public-sphere politics, and vigilantism—the outcome is the same: the foregrounding of white masculinity over and against women, people of color, and the non-heteronormative. By revealing the strategies through which white masculinity is produced as a formal difference, Carroll sheds new light on the ways that privilege is accrued and maintained.
This wide-ranging collection brings together an eclectic group of scholars to reflect upon the transnational configurations of the field of American studies and how these have affected its localizations, epistemological perspectives, ecological imaginaries, and politics of translation. The volume elaborates on the causes of the transnational paradigm shift in American studies and describes the material changes that this new paradigm has effected during the past two decades. The contributors hail from a variety of postcolonial, transoceanic, hemispheric, and post-national positions and sensibilities, enabling them to theorize a “crossroads of cultures” explanation of transnational American studies that moves beyond the multicultural studies model. Offering a rich and rewarding mix of essays and case studies, this collection will satisfy a broad range of students and scholars.
Virtually since its inception, the United States has nurtured a dreamlike and often delirious image of itself as an essentially classless society. Given the stark levels of social inequality that have actually existed and that continue today, what sustains this at once hopelessly ideological and breathlessly utopian mirage? In Around Quitting Time Robert Seguin investigates this question, focusing on a series of modern writers who were acutely sensitive to the American web of ideology and utopic vision in order to argue that a pervasive middle-class imaginary is the key to the enigma of class in America. Tracing connections between the reconstruction of the labor process and the aesthetic dilemmas of modernism, between the emergence of the modern state and the structure of narrative, Seguin analyzes the work of Nathanael West, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, John Barth, and others. These fictional narratives serve to demonstrate for Seguin the pattern of social sites and cultural phenomenon that have emerged where work and leisure, production and consumption, and activity and passivity coincide. He reveals how, by creating pathways between these seemingly opposed domains, the middle-class imaginary at once captures and suspends the dynamics of social class and opens out onto a political and cultural terrain where class is both omnipresent and invisible. Aroung Quitting Time will interest critics and historians of modern U.S. culture, literary scholars, and those who explore the interaction between economic and cultural forms.
One of the central tasks of Asian American literature, argues Patricia P. Chu, has been to construct Asian American identities in the face of existing, and often contradictory, ideas about what it means to be an American. Chu examines the model of the Anglo-American bildungsroman and shows how Asian American writers have adapted it to express their troubled and unstable position in the United States. By aligning themselves with U.S. democratic ideals while also questioning the historical realities of exclusion, internment, and discrimination, Asian American authors, contends Chu, do two kinds of ideological work: they claim Americanness for Asian Americans, and they create accounts of Asian ethnicity that deploy their specific cultures and histories to challenge established notions of Americanness. Chu further demonstrates that Asian American male and female writers engage different strategies in the struggle to adapt, reflecting their particular, gender-based relationships to immigration, work, and cultural representation. While offering fresh perspectives on the well-known writings—both fiction and memoir—of Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Bharati Mukherjee, Frank Chin, and David Mura, Assimilating Asians also provides new insight into the work of less recognized but nevertheless important writers like Carlos Bulosan, Edith Eaton, Younghill Kang, Milton Murayama, and John Okada. As she explores this expansive range of texts—published over the course of the last century by authors of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Indian origin or descent—Chu is able to illuminate her argument by linking it to key historical and cultural events. Assimilating Asians makes an important contribution to the fields of Asian American, American, and women’s studies. Scholars of Asian American literature and culture, as well as of ethnicity and assimilation, will find particular interest and value in this book.
Examining the significant influence of the Soviet Union on the work of four major African American authors—and on twentieth-century American debates about race—Beyond the Color Line and the Iron Curtain remaps black modernism, revealing the importance of the Soviet experience in the formation of a black transnationalism. Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, Claude McKay, and Paul Robeson each lived or traveled extensively in the Soviet Union between the 1920s and the 1960s, and each reflected on Communism and Soviet life in works that have been largely unavailable, overlooked, or understudied. Kate A. Baldwin takes up these writings, as well as considerable material from Soviet sources—including articles in Pravda and Ogonek, political cartoons, Russian translations of unpublished manuscripts now lost, and mistranslations of major texts—to consider how these writers influenced and were influenced by both Soviet and American culture. Her work demonstrates how the construction of a new Soviet citizen attracted African Americans to the Soviet Union, where they could explore a national identity putatively free of class, gender, and racial biases. While Hughes and McKay later renounced their affiliations with the Soviet Union, Baldwin shows how, in different ways, both Hughes and McKay, as well as Du Bois and Robeson, used their encounters with the U. S. S. R. and Soviet models to rethink the exclusionary practices of citizenship and national belonging in the United States, and to move toward an internationalism that was a dynamic mix of antiracism, anticolonialism, social democracy, and international socialism. Recovering what Baldwin terms the "Soviet archive of Black America," this book forces a rereading of some of the most important African American writers and of the transnational circuits of black modernism.
In Black Empire, Michelle Ann Stephens examines the ideal of “transnational blackness” that emerged in the work of radical black intellectuals from the British West Indies in the early twentieth century. Focusing on the writings of Marcus Garvey, Claude McKay, and C. L. R. James, Stephens shows how these thinkers developed ideas of a worldwide racial movement and federated global black political community that transcended the boundaries of nation-states. Stephens highlights key geopolitical and historical events that gave rise to these writers’ intellectual investment in new modes of black political self-determination. She describes their engagement with the fate of African Americans within the burgeoning U.S. empire, their disillusionment with the potential of post–World War I international organizations such as the League of Nations to acknowledge, let alone improve, the material conditions of people of color around the world, and the inspiration they took from the Bolshevik Revolution, which offered models of revolution and community not based on nationality.
Stephens argues that the global black political consciousness she identifies was constituted by both radical and reactionary impulses. On the one hand, Garvey, McKay, and James saw freedom of movement as the basis of black transnationalism. The Caribbean archipelago—a geographic space ideally suited to the free movement of black subjects across national boundaries—became the metaphoric heart of their vision. On the other hand, these three writers were deeply influenced by the ideas of militarism, empire, and male sovereignty that shaped global political discourse in the early twentieth century. As such, their vision of transnational blackness excluded women’s political subjectivities. Drawing together insights from American, African American, Caribbean, and gender studies, Black Empire is a major contribution to ongoing conversations about nation and diaspora.
Blood Narrative is a comparative literary and cultural study of post-World War II literary and activist texts by New Zealand Maori and American Indians—groups who share much in their responses to European settler colonialism. Chadwick Allen reveals the complex narrative tactics employed by writers and activists in these societies that enabled them to realize unprecedented practical power in making both their voices and their own sense of indigeneity heard. Allen shows how both Maori and Native Americans resisted the assimilationist tide rising out of World War II and how, in the 1960s and 1970s, they each experienced a renaissance of political and cultural activism and literary production that culminated in the formation of the first general assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. He focuses his comparison on two fronts: first, the blood/land/memory complex that refers to these groups' struggles to define indigeneity and to be freed from the definitions of authenticity imposed by dominant settler cultures. Allen's second focus is on the discourse of treaties between American Indians and the U.S. government and between Maori and Great Britain, which he contends offers strong legal and moral bases from which these indigenous minorities can argue land and resource rights as well as cultural and identity politics. With its implicit critique of multiculturalism and of postcolonial studies that have tended to neglect the colonized status of indigenous First World minorities, Blood Narrative will appeal to students and scholars of literature, American and European history, multiculturalism, postcolonialism, and comparative cultural studies.
Poet, novelist, journalist, and ethnographer, Américo Paredes (1915–1999) was a pioneering figure in Mexican American border studies and a founder of Chicano studies. Paredes taught literature and anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin for decades, and his ethnographic and literary critical work laid the groundwork for subsequent scholarship on the folktales, legends, and riddles of Mexican Americans. In this beautifully written literary history, the distinguished scholar Ramón Saldívar establishes Paredes’s preeminent place in writing the contested cultural history of the south Texas borderlands. At the same time, Saldívar reveals Paredes as a precursor to the “new” American cultural studies by showing how he perceptively negotiated the contradictions between the national and transnational forces at work in the Americas in the nascent era of globalization.
Saldívar demonstrates how Paredes’s poetry, prose, and journalism prefigured his later work as a folklorist and ethnographer. In song, story, and poetry, Paredes first developed the themes and issues that would be central to his celebrated later work on the “border studies” or “anthropology of the borderlands.” Saldívar describes how Paredes’s experiences as an American soldier, journalist, and humanitarian aid worker in Asia shaped his understanding of the relations between Anglos and Mexicans in the borderlands of south Texas and of national and ethnic identities more broadly. Saldívar was a friend of Paredes, and part of TheBorderlands of Culture is told in Paredes’s own words. By explaining how Paredes’s work engaged with issues central to contemporary scholarship, Saldívar extends Paredes’s intellectual project and shows how it contributes to the remapping of the field of American studies from a transnational perspective.
Clear Word and Third Sight examines the strands of a collective African diasporic consciousness represented in the work of a number of Black Caribbean writers. Catherine A. John shows how a shared consciousness, or “third sight,” is rooted in both pre- and postcolonial cultural practices and disseminated through a rich oral tradition. This consciousness has served diasporic communities by creating an alternate philosophical “worldsense” linking those of African descent across space and time.
Contesting popular discourses about what constitutes culture and maintaining that neglected strains in negritude discourse provide a crucial philosophical perspective on the connections between folk practices, cultural memory, and collective consciousness, John examines the diasporic principles in the work of the negritude writers Léon Damas, Aimé Césaire, and Léopold Senghor. She traces the manifestations and reworkings of their ideas in Afro-Caribbean writing from the eastern and French Caribbean, as well as the Caribbean diaspora in the United States. The authors she discusses include Jamaica Kincaid, Earl Lovelace, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Audre Lorde, Paule Marshall, and Edouard Glissant, among others. John argues that by incorporating what she calls folk groundings—such as poems, folktales, proverbs, and songs—into their work, Afro-Caribbean writers invoke a psychospiritual consciousness which combines old and new strategies for addressing the ongoing postcolonial struggle.
In The Color of Sex Mason Stokes offers new ways of thinking about whiteness by exploring its surprisingly ambivalent partnership with heterosexuality. Stokes examines a wide range of white-supremacist American texts written and produced between 1852 and 1915—literary romances, dime novels, religious and scientific tracts, film—and exposes whiteness as a tangled network of racial and sexual desire. Stokes locates these white-supremacist texts amid the anti-racist efforts of African American writers and activists, deepening our understanding of both American and African American literary and cultural history. The Color of Sex reveals what happens when race and sexuality meet, when white desire encounters its own ambivalence. As Stokes argues, whiteness and heterosexuality exist in anxious relation to one another. Mutually invested in “the normal,” they support each other in their desperate insistence on the cultural logic of exclusion. At the same time, however, they threaten one another in their attempt to create and sustain a white future, since reproducing whiteness necessarily involves the risk of contamination Charting the curious movements of this “white heterosexuality,” The Color of Sex inaugurates a new moment in our ongoing attempt to understand the frenzied interplay of race and sexuality in America. As such, it will appeal to scholars interested in race theory, sexuality studies, and American history, culture, and literature.
Ever since the founders drafted "We the People," "we" have been at pains to work out the contradictions in their formulation, to fix in words precisely what it means to be American. Constituting Americans rethinks the way that certain writers of the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century contributed to this project; in doing so, it revises the traditional narrative of U.S. literary history, restoring an essential chapter to the story of an emerging American cultural identity. In diverse ways, very different writers—including Frederick Douglass, Herman Melville, Harriet Wilson, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Gertrude Stein—participated in the construction and dissemination of an American identity, but none was entirely at ease in the culture they all helped to define. Evident in their work is a haunting sense of their telling someone else’s story, a discomfort that Priscilla Wald reads in the context of legal and political debates about citizenship and personhood that marked the emergence of the United States as a nation and a world power. From early-nineteenth-century Supreme Court cases to turn-of-the-century Jim Crow and immigration legislation, from the political speeches of Abraham Lincoln to the historical work of Woodrow Wilson, nation-builders addressed the legal, political, and historical paradoxes of American identity. Against the backdrop of their efforts, Wald shows how works such as Douglass’s autobiographical narratives, Melville’s Pierre, Wilson’s Our Nig, Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folks, and Stein’s The Making of Americans responded, through formal innovations, to the aggressive demands for literary participation in the building of that nation. The conversation that emerges among these literary works challenges the definitions and genres that largely determine not only what works are read, but also how they are read in classrooms in the United States today. Offering insight into the relationship of storytelling to national identity, Constituting Americans will compel the attention of those with an interest in American literature, American studies, and cultural studies.
Alan Nadel provides a unique analysis of the rise of American postmodernism by viewing it as a breakdown in Cold War cultural narratives of containment. These narratives, which embodied an American postwar foreign policy charged with checking the spread of Communism, also operated, Nadel argues, within a wide spectrum of cultural life in the United States to contain atomic secrets, sexual license, gender roles, nuclear energy, and artistic expression. Because these narratives were deployed in films, books, and magazines at a time when American culture was for the first time able to dominate global entertainment and capitalize on global production, containment became one of the most widely disseminated and highly privileged national narratives in history. Examining a broad sweep of American culture, from the work of George Kennan to Playboy Magazine, from the movies of Doris Day and Walt Disney to those of Cecil B. DeMille and Alfred Hitchcock, from James Bond to Holden Caulfield, Nadel discloses the remarkable pervasiveness of the containment narrative. Drawing subtly on insights provided by contemporary theorists, including Baudrillard, Foucault, Jameson, Sedgwick, Certeau, and Hayden White, he situates the rhetoric of the Cold War within a gendered narrative powered by the unspoken potency of the atom. He then traces the breakdown of this discourse of containment through such events as the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, and ties its collapse to the onset of American postmodernism, typified by works such as Catch–22 and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. An important work of cultural criticism, Containment Culture links atomic power with postmodernism and postwar politics, and shows how a multifarious national policy can become part of a nation’s cultural agenda and a source of meaning for its citizenry.
Throughout American literature, the figure of the child is often represented in opposition to the adult. In Cradle of Liberty Caroline F. Levander proposes that this opposition is crucial to American political thought and the literary cultures that surround and help produce it. Levander argues that from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth, American literary and political texts did more than include child subjects: they depended on them to represent, naturalize, and, at times, attempt to reconfigure the ground rules of U.S. national belonging. She demonstrates how, as the modern nation-state and the modern concept of the child (as someone fundamentally different from the adult) emerged in tandem from the late eighteenth century forward, the child and the nation-state became intertwined. The child came to represent nationalism, nation-building, and the intrinsic connection between nationalism and race that was instrumental in creating a culture of white supremacy in the United States.
Reading texts by John Adams, Thomas Paine, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Augusta J. Evans, Mark Twain, Pauline Hopkins, William James, José Martí, W. E. B. Du Bois, and others, Levander traces the child as it figures in writing about several defining events for the United States. Among these are the Revolutionary War, the U.S.-Mexican War, the Civil War, and the U.S. expulsion of Spain from the Caribbean and Cuba. She charts how the child crystallized the concept of self—a self who could affiliate with the nation—in the early national period, and then follows the child through the rise of a school of American psychology and the period of imperialism. Demonstrating that textual representations of the child have been a potent force in shaping public opinion about race, slavery, exceptionalism, and imperialism, Cradle of Liberty shows how a powerful racial logic pervades structures of liberal democracy in the United States.
Starting in 2005, Günter H. Lenz began preparing a book-length exploration of the transformation of the field of American Studies in the crucial years between 1970 and 1990. As a commentator on, contributor to, and participant in the intellectual and institutional changes in his field, Lenz was well situated to offer a comprehensive and balanced interpretation of that seminal era. Building on essays he wrote while these changes were ongoing, he shows how the revolution in theory, the emergence of postmodern socioeconomic conditions, the increasing globalization of everyday life, and postcolonial responses to continuing and new forms of colonial domination had transformed American Studies as a discipline focused on the distinctive qualities of the United States to a field encompassing the many different “Americas” in the Western Hemisphere as well as how this complex region influenced and was interpreted by the rest of the world. In tracking the shift of American Studies from its exceptionalist bias to its unmanageable global responsibilities, Lenz shows the crucial roles played by the 1930s’ Left in the U.S., the Frankfurt School in Germany and elsewhere between 1930 and 1960, Continental post-structuralism, neo-Marxism, and post-colonialism. Lenz’s friends and colleagues, now his editors, present here his final backward glance at a critical period in American Studies and the birth of the Transnational.
As W. E. B. DuBois famously prophesied in The Souls of Black Folk, the fiction of the color line has been of urgent concern in defining a certain twentieth-century U.S. racial “order.” Yet the very arbitrariness of this line also gives rise to opportunities for racial “passing,” a practice through which subjects appropriate the terms of racial discourse. To erode race’s authority, Gayle Wald argues, we must understand how race defines and yet fails to represent identity. She thus uses cultural narratives of passing to illuminate both the contradictions of race and the deployment of such contradictions for a variety of needs, interests, and desires. Wald begins her reading of twentieth-century passing narratives by analyzing works by African American writers James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset, and Nella Larsen, showing how they use the “passing plot” to explore the negotiation of identity, agency, and freedom within the context of their protagonists' restricted choices. She then examines the 1946 autobiography Really the Blues, which details the transformation of Milton Mesirow, middle-class son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, into Mezz Mezzrow, jazz musician and self-described “voluntary Negro.” Turning to the 1949 films Pinky and Lost Boundaries, which imagine African American citizenship within class-specific protocols of race and gender, she interrogates the complicated representation of racial passing in a visual medium. Her investigation of “post-passing” testimonials in postwar African American magazines, which strove to foster black consumerism while constructing “positive” images of black achievement and affluence in the postwar years, focuses on neglected texts within the archives of black popular culture. Finally, after a look at liberal contradictions of John Howard Griffin’s 1961 auto-ethnography Black Like Me, Wald concludes with an epilogue that considers the idea of passing in the context of the recent discourse of “color blindness.” Wald’s analysis of the moral, political, and theoretical dimensions of racial passing makes Crossing the Line important reading as we approach the twenty-first century. Her engaging and dynamic book will be of particular interest to scholars of American studies, African American studies, cultural studies, and literary criticism.
Cultures of United States Imperialism represents a major paradigm shift that will remap the field of American Studies. Pointing to a glaring blind spot in the basic premises of the study of American culture, leading critics and theorists in cultural studies, history, anthropology, and literature reveal the "denial of empire" at the heart of American Studies. Challenging traditional definitions and periodizations of imperialism, this volume shows how international relations reciprocally shape a dominant imperial culture at home and how imperial relations are enacted and contested within the United States. Drawing on a broad range of interpretive practices, these essays range across American history, from European representations of the New World to the mass media spectacle of the Persian Gulf War. The volume breaks down the boundary between the study of foreign relations and American culture to examine imperialism as an internal process of cultural appropriation and as an external struggle over international power. The contributors explore how the politics of continental and international expansion, conquest, and resistance have shaped the history of American culture just as much as the cultures of those it has dominated. By uncovering the dialectical relationship between American cultures and international relations, this collection demonstrates the necessity of analyzing imperialism as a political or economic process inseparable from the social relations and cultural representations of gender, race, ethnicity, and class at home.
Contributors. Lynda Boose, Mary Yoko Brannen, Bill Brown, William Cain, Eric Cheyfitz, Vicente Diaz, Frederick Errington, Kevin Gaines, Deborah Gewertz, Donna Haraway, Susan Jeffords, Myra Jehlen, Amy Kaplan, Eric Lott, Walter Benn Michaels, Donald E. Pease, Vicente Rafael, Michael Rogin, José David Saldívar, Richard Slotkin, Doris Sommer, Gauri Viswanathan, Priscilla Wald, Kenneth Warren, Christopher P. Wilson
“The American Negro,” Arthur Schomburg wrote in 1925, “must remake his past in order to make his future.” Many Harlem Renaissance figures agreed that reframing the black folk inheritance could play a major role in imagining a new future of racial equality and artistic freedom. In Deep River Paul Allen Anderson focuses on the role of African American folk music in the Renaissance aesthetic and in political debates about racial performance, social memory, and national identity. Deep River elucidates how spirituals, African American concert music, the blues, and jazz became symbolic sites of social memory and anticipation during the Harlem Renaissance. Anderson traces the roots of this period’s debates about music to the American and European tours of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in the 1870s and to W. E. B. Du Bois’s influential writings at the turn of the century about folk culture and its bearing on racial progress and national identity. He details how musical idioms spoke to contrasting visions of New Negro art, folk authenticity, and modernist cosmopolitanism in the works of Du Bois, Alain Locke, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Sterling Brown, Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, Carl Van Vechten, and others. In addition to revisiting the place of music in the culture wars of the 1920s, Deep River provides fresh perspectives on the aesthetics of race and the politics of music in Popular Front and Swing Era music criticism, African American critical theory, and contemporary musicology. Deep River offers a sophisticated historical account of American racial ideologies and their function in music criticism and modernist thought. It will interest general readers as well as students of African American studies, American studies, intellectual history, musicology, and literature.
Egypt Land is the first comprehensive analysis of the connections between constructions of race and representations of ancient Egypt in nineteenth-century America. Scott Trafton argues that the American mania for Egypt was directly related to anxieties over race and race-based slavery. He shows how the fascination with ancient Egypt among both black and white Americans was manifest in a range of often contradictory ways. Both groups likened the power of the United States to that of the ancient Egyptian empire, yet both also identified with ancient Egypt’s victims. As the land which represented the origins of races and nations, the power and folly of empires, despots holding people in bondage, and the exodus of the saved from the land of slavery, ancient Egypt was a uniquely useful trope for representing America’s own conflicts and anxious aspirations.
Drawing on literary and cultural studies, art and architectural history, political history, religious history, and the histories of archaeology and ethnology, Trafton illuminates anxieties related to race in different manifestations of nineteenth-century American Egyptomania, including the development of American Egyptology, the rise of racialized science, the narrative and literary tradition of the imperialist adventure tale, the cultural politics of the architectural Egyptian Revival, and the dynamics of African American Ethiopianism. He demonstrates how debates over what the United States was and what it could become returned again and again to ancient Egypt. From visions of Cleopatra to the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, from the works of Pauline Hopkins to the construction of the Washington Monument, from the measuring of slaves’ skulls to the singing of slave spirituals—claims about and representations of ancient Egypt served as linchpins for discussions about nineteenth-century American racial and national identity.
Empire Burlesque traces the emergence of the contemporary global context within which American critical identity is formed. Daniel T. O’Hara argues that globalization has had a markedly negative impact on American cultural criticism, circumscribing both its material and imaginative potential, reducing much of it to absurdity. By highlighting the spectacle of its own self-parody, O’Hara aims to shock U.S. cultural criticism back into a sense of ethical responsibility.
Empire Burlesque presents several interrelated analyses through readings of a range of writers and cultural figures including Henry James, Freud, Said, De Man, Derrida, and Cordwainer Smith (an academic, spy, and classic 1950s and 1960s science fiction writer). It describes the debilitating effects of globalization on the university in general and the field of literary studies in particular, it critiques literary studies’ embrace of globalization theory in the name of a blind and vacant modernization, and it meditates on the ways critical reading and writing can facilitate an imaginative alternative to institutionalized practices of modernization. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalytical theory, it diagnoses contemporary American Studies as typically driven by the mindless abjection and transference of professional identities.
A provocative commentary on contemporary cultural criticism, Empire Burlesque will inform debates on the American university across the humanities, particularly among those in literary criticism, cultural studies, and American studies.
Over the past decade the popularity of black writers including E. Lynn Harris and Terry McMillan has been hailed as an indication that an active African American reading public has come into being. Yet this is not a new trend; there is a vibrant history of African American literacy, literary associations, and book clubs. Forgotten Readers reveals that neglected past, looking at the reading practices of free blacks in the antebellum north and among African Americans following the Civil War. It places the black upper and middle classes within American literary history, illustrating how they used reading and literary conversation as a means to assert their civic identities and intervene in the political and literary cultures of the United States from which they were otherwise excluded.
Forgotten Readers expands our definition of literacy and urges us to think of literature as broadly as it was conceived of in the nineteenth century. Elizabeth McHenry delves into archival sources, including the records of past literary societies and the unpublished writings of their members. She examines particular literary associations, including the Saturday Nighters of Washington, D.C., whose members included Jean Toomer and Georgia Douglas Johnson. She shows how black literary societies developed, their relationship to the black press, and the ways that African American women’s clubs—which flourished during the 1890s—encouraged literary activity. In an epilogue, McHenry connects this rich tradition of African American interest in books, reading, and literary conversation to contemporary literary phenomena such as Oprah Winfrey’s book club.
Paul Lauter, an icon of American Studies who has been a primary agent in its transformation and its chief ambassador abroad, offers a wide-ranging collection of essays that demonstrate and reflect on this important and often highly politicized discipline. While American Studies was formerly seen as a wholly subsidiary academic program that loosely combined the study of American history, literature, and art, From Walden Pond to Jurassic Park reveals the evolution of an independent, highly interdisciplinary program with distinctive subjects, methods, and goals that are much different than the traditional academic departments that nurtured it. With anecdote peppered discussions ranging from specific literary texts and movies to the future of higher education and the efficacy of unions, From Walden Pond to Jurassic Park entertains even as it offers a twenty-first century account of how and why Americanists at home and abroad now do what they do. Drawing on his forty-five years of teaching and research as well as his experience as a political activist and a cultural radical, Lauter shows how a multifaceted increase in the United States’ global dominion has infused a particular political urgency into American Studies. With its military and economic influence, its cultural and linguistic reach, the United States is—for better or for worse—too formidable and potent not to be understood clearly and critically.
The Futures of American Studies
Donald E. Pease and Robyn Wiegman, eds. Duke University Press, 2002 Library of Congress E175.8.F88 2002 | Dewey Decimal 973.071
Originating as a proponent of U.S. exceptionalism during the Cold War, American Studies has now reinvented itself, vigorously critiquing various kinds of critical hegemony and launching innovative interdisciplinary endeavors. The Futures of American Studies considers the field today and provides important deliberations on what it might yet become. Essays by both prominent and emerging scholars provide theoretically engaging analyses of the postnational impulse of current scholarship, the field's historical relationship to social movements, the status of theory, the state of higher education in the United States, and the impact of ethnic and gender studies on area studies. They also investigate the influence of poststructuralism, postcolonial studies, sexuality studies, and cultural studies on U.S. nationalist—and antinationalist—discourses. No single overriding paradigm dominates the anthology. Instead, the articles enter into a lively and challenging dialogue with one another. A major assessment of the state of the field, The Futures of American Studies is necessary reading for American Studies scholars.
Contributors. Lindon Barrett, Nancy Bentley, Gillian Brown, Russ Castronovo, Eric Cheyfitz, Michael Denning, Winfried Fluck, Carl Gutierrez-Jones, Dana Heller, Amy Kaplan, Paul Lauter, Günter H. Lenz, George Lipsitz, Lisa Lowe, Walter Benn Michaels, José Estaban Muñoz, Dana D. Nelson, Ricardo L. Ortiz, Janice Radway, John Carlos Rowe, William V. Spanos
In The Genuine Article Paul Gilmore examines the interdependence of literary and mass culture at a crucial moment in U. S. history. Demonstrating from a new perspective the centrality of race to the construction of white manhood across class lines, Gilmore argues that in the years before the Civil War, as literature increasingly became another commodity in the capitalist cultural marketplace, American authors appropriated middle-brow and racially loaded cultural forms to bolster their masculinity. From characters in Indian melodramas and minstrel shows to exhibits in popular museums and daguerrotype galleries, primitive racialized figures circulated as “the genuine article” of manliness in the antebellum United States. Gilmore argues that these figures were manipulated, translated, and adopted not only by canonical authors such as Hawthorne, Thoreau, Cooper, and Melville but also by African American and Native American writers like William Wells Brown and Okah Tubbee. By examining how these cultural notions of race played out in literary texts and helped to construct authorship as a masculine profession, Gilmore makes a unique contribution to theories of class formation in nineteenth-century America. The Genuine Article will enrich students and scholars of American studies, gender studies, literature, history, sociology, anthropology, popular culture, and race.
In Gumshoe America Sean McCann offers a bold new account of the hard-boiled crime story and its literary and political significance. Illuminating a previously unnoticed set of concerns at the heart of the fiction, he contends that mid-twentieth-century American crime writers used the genre to confront and wrestle with many of the paradoxes and disappointments of New Deal liberalism. For these authors, the same contradictions inherent in liberal democracy were present within the changing literary marketplace of the mid-twentieth-century United States: the competing claims of the elite versus the popular, the demands of market capitalism versus conceptions of quality, and the individual versus a homogenized society. Gumshoe America traces the way those problems surfaced in hard-boiled crime fiction from the1920s through the 1960s. Beginning by using a forum on the KKK in the pulp magazine Black Mask to describe both the economic and political culture of pulp fiction in the early twenties, McCann locates the origins of the hard-boiled crime story in the genre’s conflict with the racist antiliberalism prominent at the time. Turning his focus to Dashiell Hammett’s career, McCann shows how Hammett’s writings in the late 1920s and early 1930s moved detective fiction away from its founding fables of social compact to the cultural alienation triggered by a burgeoning administrative state. He then examines how Raymond Chandler’s fiction, unlike Hammett’s, idealized sentimental fraternity, echoing the communitarian appeals of the late New Deal. Two of the first crime writers to publish original fiction in paperback—Jim Thompson and Charles Willeford—are examined next in juxtaposition to the popularity enjoyed by their contemporaries Mickey Spillane and Ross Macdonald. The stories of the former two, claims McCann, portray the decline of the New Deal and the emergence of the rights-based liberalism of the postwar years and reveal new attitudes toward government: individual alienation, frustration with bureaucratic institutions, and dissatisfaction with the growing vision of America as a meritocracy. Before concluding, McCann turns to the work of Chester Himes, who, in producing revolutionary hard-boiled novels, used the genre to explore the changing political significance of race that accompanied the rise of the Civil Rights movement in the late 1950s and the 1960s. Combining a striking reinterpretation of the hard-boiled crime story with a fresh view of the political complications and cultural legacies of the New Deal, Gumshoe America will interest students and fans of the genre, and scholars of American history, culture, and government.
In 1823, President James Monroe announced that the Western Hemisphere was closed to any future European colonization and that the United States would protect the Americas as a space destined for democracy. Over the next century, these ideas—which came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine—provided the framework through which Americans understood and articulated their military and diplomatic role in the world. Hemispheric Imaginings demonstrates that North Americans conceived and developed the Monroe Doctrine in relation to transatlantic literary narratives. Gretchen Murphy argues that fiction and journalism were crucial to popularizing and making sense of the Doctrine’s contradictions, including the fact that it both drove and concealed U.S. imperialism. Presenting fiction and popular journalism as key arenas in which such inconsistencies were challenged or obscured, Murphy highlights the major role writers played in shaping conceptions of the U.S. empire.
Murphy juxtaposes close readings of novels with analyses of nonfiction texts. From uncovering the literary inspirations for the Monroe Doctrine itself to tracing visions of hemispheric unity and transatlantic separation in novels by Lydia Maria Child, Nathaniel Hawthorne, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Lew Wallace, and Richard Harding Davis, she reveals the Doctrine’s forgotten cultural history. In making a vital contribution to the effort to move American Studies beyond its limited focus on the United States, Murphy questions recent proposals to reframe the discipline in hemispheric terms. She warns that to do so risks replicating the Monroe Doctrine’s proprietary claim to isolate the Americas from the rest of the world.
Challenging widely held assumptions about postwar gay male culture and politics, Homosexuality in Cold War America examines how gay men in the 1950s resisted pressures to remain in the closet. Robert J. Corber argues that a form of gay male identity emerged in the 1950s that simultaneously drew on and transcended left-wing opposition to the Cold War cultural and political consensus. Combining readings of novels, plays, and films of the period with historical research into the national security state, the growth of the suburbs, and postwar consumer culture, Corber examines how gay men resisted the "organization man" model of masculinity that rose to dominance in the wake of World War II. By exploring the representation of gay men in film noir, Corber suggests that even as this Hollywood genre reinforced homophobic stereotypes, it legitimized the gay male "gaze." He emphasizes how film noir’s introduction of homosexual characters countered the national "project" to render gay men invisible, and marked a deep subversion of the Cold War mentality. Corber then considers the work of gay male writers Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, and James Baldwin, demonstrating how these authors declined to represent homosexuality as a discrete subculture and instead promoted a model of political solidarity rooted in the shared experience of oppression. Homosexuality in Cold War America reveals that the ideological critique of the dominant culture made by gay male authors of the 1950s laid the foundation for the gay liberation movement of the following decade.
In the Name of National Security exposes the ways in which the films of Alfred Hitchcock, in conjunction with liberal intellectuals and political figures of the 1950s, fostered homophobia so as to politicize issues of gender in the United States. As Corber shows, throughout the 1950s a cast of mind known as the Cold War consensus prevailed in the United States. Promoted by Cold War liberals--that is, liberals who wanted to perserve the legacies of the New Deal but also wished to separate liberalism from a Communist-dominated cultural politics--this consensus was grounded in the perceived threat that Communists, lesbians, and homosexuals posed to national security. Through an analysis of the films of Alfred Hitchcock, combined with new research on the historical context in which these films were produced, Corber shows how Cold War liberals tried to contain the increasing heterogeneity of American society by linking questions of gender and sexual identity directly to issues of national security, a strategic move that the films of Hitchcock both legitimated and at times undermined. Drawing on psychoanalytic and Marxist theory, Corber looks at such films as Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, and Psycho to show how Hitchcock manipulated viewers' attachments and identifications to foster and reinforce the relationship between homophobia and national security issues. A revisionary account of Hitchcock's major works, In the Name of National Security is also of great interest for what it reveals about the construction of political "reality" in American history.
Spanning the 1870s to the present, Individuality Incorporated demonstrates how crucial a knowledge of Native American-White history is to rethinking key issues in American studies, cultural studies, and the history of subjectivity. Joel Pfister proposes an ingenious critical and historical reinterpretation of constructions of “Indians” and “individuals.” Native Americans have long contemplated the irony that the government used its schools to coerce children from diverse tribes to view themselves first as “Indians”—encoded as the evolutionary problem—and then as “individuals”—defined as the civilized industrial solution. As Luther Standing Bear, Charles Eastman, and Black Elk attest, tribal cultures had their own complex ways of imagining, enhancing, motivating, and performing the self that did not conform to federal blueprints labeled “individuality.” Enlarging the scope of this history of “individuality,” Pfister elaborates the implications of state, corporate, and aesthetic experiments that moved beyond the tactics of an older melting pot hegemony to impose a modern protomulticultural rule on Natives. The argument focuses on the famous Carlisle Indian School; assimilationist novels; Native literature and cultural critique from Zitkala-Sa to Leslie Marmon Silko; Taos and Santa Fe bohemians (Mabel Dodge Luhan, D. H. Lawrence, Mary Austin); multicultural modernisms (Fred Kabotie, Oliver La Farge, John Sloan, D’Arcy McNickle); the Southwestern tourism industry’s development of corporate multiculturalism; the diversity management schemes that John Collier implemented as head of the Indian New Deal; and early formulations of ethnic studies. Pfister’s unique analysis moves from Gilded Age incorporations of individuality to postmodern incorporations of multicultural reworkings of individuality to unpack what is at stake in producing subjectivity in World America.
In Interior States Christopher Castiglia focuses on U.S. citizens’ democratic impulse: their ability to work with others to imagine genuinely democratic publics while taking divergent views into account. Castiglia contends that citizens of the early United States were encouraged to locate this social impulse not in associations with others but in the turbulent and conflicted interiors of their own bodies. He describes how the human interior—with its battles between appetite and restraint, desire and deferral—became a displacement of the divided sociality of nineteenth-century America’s public sphere and contributed to the vanishing of that sphere in the twentieth century and the twenty-first. Drawing insightful connections between political structures, social relations, and cultural forms, he explains that as the interior came to reflect the ideological conflicts of the social world, citizens were encouraged to (mis)understand vigilant self-scrutiny and self-management as effective democratic action.
In the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth, as discourses of interiority gained prominence, so did powerful counter-narratives. Castiglia reveals the flamboyant pages of antebellum popular fiction to be an archive of unruly democratic aspirations. Through close readings of works by Maria Monk and George Lippard, Walt Whitman and Timothy Shay Arthur, Hannah Webster Foster and Hannah Crafts, and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, Castiglia highlights a refusal to be reformed or self-contained. In antebellum authors’ representations of nervousness, desire, appetite, fantasy, and imagination, he finds democratic strivings that refused to disappear. Taking inspiration from those writers and turning to the present, Castiglia advocates a humanism-without-humans that, denied the adjudicative power of interiority, promises to release democracy from its inner life and to return it to the public sphere where U.S. citizens may yet create unprecedented possibilities for social action.
Latent Destinies examines the formation of postmodern sensibilities and their relationship to varieties of paranoia that have been seen as widespread in this century. Despite the fact that the Cold War has ended and the threat of nuclear annihilation has been dramatically lessened by most estimates, the paranoia that has characterized the period has not gone away. Indeed, it is as if—as O’Donnell suggests—this paranoia has been internalized, scattered, and reiterated at a multitude of sites: Oklahoma City, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Bosnia, the White House, the United Nations, and numerous other places. O’Donnell argues that paranoia on the broadly cultural level is essentially a narrative process in which history and postmodern identity are negotiated simultaneously. The result is an erasure of historical temporality—the past and future become the all-consuming, self-aware present. To explain and exemplify this, O’Donnell looks at such books and films as Libra, JFK, The Crying of Lot 49, The Truman Show, Reservoir Dogs, Empire of the Senseless, Oswald’s Tale, The Executioner’s Song, Underworld, The Killer Inside Me, and Groundhog Day. Organized around the topics of nationalism, gender, criminality, and construction of history, Latent Destinies establishes cultural paranoia as consonant with our contradictory need for multiplicity and certainty, for openness and secrecy, and for mobility and historical stability. Demonstrating how imaginative works of novels and films can be used to understand the postmodern historical condition, this book will interest students and scholars of American literature and cultural studies, postmodern theory, and film studies.
Look Away! considers the U.S. South in relation to Latin America and the Caribbean. Given that some of the major characteristics that mark the South as exceptional within the United States—including the legacies of a plantation economy and slave trade—are common to most of the Americas, Look Away! points to postcolonial studies as perhaps the best perspective from which to comprehend the U.S. South. At the same time it shows how, as part of the United States, the South—both center and margin, victor and defeated, and empire and colony—complicates ideas of the postcolonial. The twenty-two essays in this comparative, interdisciplinary collection rethink southern U.S. identity, race, and the differences and commonalities between the cultural productions and imagined communities of the U.S. South and Latin America.
Look Away! presents work by respected scholars in comparative literature, American studies, and Latin American studies. The contributors analyze how writers—including the Martinican Edouard Glissant, the Cuban-American Gustavo Pérez Firmat, and the Trinidad-born, British V. S. Naipaul—have engaged with the southern United States. They explore William Faulkner’s role in Latin American thought and consider his work in relation to that of Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges. Many essays re-examine major topics in southern U.S. culture—such as race, slavery, slave resistance, and the legacies of the past—through the lens of postcolonial theory and postmodern geography. Others discuss the South in relation to the U.S.–Mexico border. Throughout the volume, the contributors consistently reconceptualize U.S. southern culture in a way that acknowledges its postcolonial status without diminishing its distinctiveness.
Contributors. Jesse Alemán, Bob Brinkmeyer, Debra Cohen, Deborah Cohn, Michael Dash, Leigh Anne Duck, Wendy Faris, Earl Fitz, George Handley, Steve Hunsaker, Kirsten Silva Gruesz, Dane Johnson, Richard King, Jane Landers, John T. Matthews, Stephanie Merrim, Helen Oakley, Vincent Pérez, John-Michael Rivera, Scott Romine, Jon Smith, Ilan Stavans, Philip Weinstein, Lois Parkinson Zamora
For the most part, democracy is simply presumed to exist in the United States. It is viewed as a completed project rather than as a goal to be achieved. Fifteen leading scholars challenge that stasis in Materializing Democracy. They aim to reinvigorate the idea of democracy by placing it in the midst of a contentious political and cultural fray, which, the volume’s editors argue, is exactly where it belongs. Drawing on literary criticism, cultural studies, history, legal studies, and political theory, the essays collected here highlight competing definitions and practices of democracy—in politics, society, and, indeed, academia.
Covering topics ranging from rights discourse to Native American performance, from identity politics to gay marriage, and from rituals of public mourning to the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the contributors seek to understand the practices, ideas, and material conditions that enable or foreclose democracy’s possibilities. Through readings of subjects as diverse as Will Rogers, Alexis de Tocqueville, slave narratives, interactions along the Texas-Mexico border, and liberal arts education, the contributors also explore ways of making democracy available for analysis. Materializing Democracy suggests that attention to disparate narratives is integral to the development of more complex, vibrant versions of democracy.
Contributors. Lauren Berlant, Wendy Brown, Chris Castiglia, Russ Castronovo, Joan Dayan, Wai Chee Dimock, Lisa Duggan, Richard R. Flores, Kevin Gaines, Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, Michael Moon, Dana D. Nelson, Christopher Newfield, Donald E. Pease
Until attention shifted to the Middle East in the early 1970s, Americans turned most often toward the Maghreb—Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the Sahara—for their understanding of “the Arab.” In Morocco Bound, Brian T. Edwards examines American representations of the Maghreb during three pivotal decades—from 1942, when the United States entered the North African campaign of World War II, through 1973. He reveals how American film and literary, historical, journalistic, and anthropological accounts of the region imagined the role of the United States in a world it seemed to dominate at the same time that they displaced domestic social concerns—particularly about race relations—onto an “exotic” North Africa.
Edwards reads a broad range of texts to recuperate the disorienting possibilities for rethinking American empire. Examining work by William Burroughs, Jane Bowles, Ernie Pyle, A. J. Liebling, Jane Kramer, Alfred Hitchcock, Clifford Geertz, James Michener, Ornette Coleman, General George S. Patton, and others, he puts American texts in conversation with an archive of Maghrebi responses. Whether considering Warner Brothers’ marketing of the movie Casablanca in 1942, journalistic representations of Tangier as a city of excess and queerness, Paul Bowles’s collaboration with the Moroccan artist Mohammed Mrabet, the hippie communities in and around Marrakech in the 1960s and early 1970s, or the writings of young American anthropologists working nearby at the same time, Edwards illuminates the circulation of American texts, their relationship to Maghrebi history, and the ways they might be read so as to reimagine the role of American culture in the world.
National narratives create imaginary relations within imagined communities called national peoples. But in the American narrative, alongside the nexus of belonging established for the national community, the national narrative has represented other peoples (women, blacks, "foreigners", the homeless) from whom the property of nationness has been removed altogether and upon whose differences from them the national people depended for the construction of their norms. Dismantling this opposition has become the task of post-national (Post-Americanist) narratives, bent on changing the assumptions that found the "national identity." This volume, originally published as a special issue of bounrary 2, focuses on the process of assembling and dismantling the American national narrative(s), sketching its inception and demolition. The contributors examine various cultural, political, and historical sources--colonial literature, mass movements, epidemics of disease, mass spectacle, transnational corporations, super-weapons, popular magazines, literary texts--out of which this narrative was constructed, and propose different understandings of nationality and identity following in its wake.
Contributors. Jonathan Arac, Lauren Berlant, Robert J. Corber, Elizabeth Freeman, Kathryn V. Lingberg, Jack Matthews, Alan Nadel, Patrick O'Donnell, Daniel O'Hara, Donald E. Pease, Ross Posnock, John Carlos Rowe, Rob Wilson
National Manhood explores the relationship between gender, race, and nation by tracing developing ideals of citizenship in the United States from the Revolutionary War through the 1850s. Through an extensive reading of literary and historical documents, Dana D. Nelson analyzes the social and political articulation of a civic identity centered around the white male and points to a cultural moment in which the theoretical consolidation of white manhood worked to ground, and perhaps even found, the nation. Using political, scientific, medical, personal, and literary texts ranging from the Federalist papers to the ethnographic work associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition to the medical lectures of early gynecologists, Nelson explores the referential power of white manhood, how and under what conditions it came to stand for the nation, and how it came to be a fraternal articulation of a representative and civic identity in the United States. In examining early exemplary models of national manhood and by tracing its cultural generalization, National Manhood reveals not only how an impossible ideal has helped to form racist and sexist practices, but also how this ideal has simultaneously privileged and oppressed white men, who, in measuring themselves against it, are able to disavow their part in those oppressions. Historically broad and theoretically informed, National Manhood reaches across disciplines to engage those studying early national culture, race and gender issues, and American history, literature, and culture.
In Necro Citizenship Russ Castronovo argues that the meaning of citizenship in the United States during the nineteenth century was bound to—and even dependent on—death. Deploying an impressive range of literary and cultural texts, Castronovo interrogates an American public sphere that fetishized death as a crucial point of political identification. This morbid politics idealized disembodiment over embodiment, spiritual conditions over material ones, amnesia over history, and passivity over engagement. Moving from medical engravings, séances, and clairvoyant communication to Supreme Court decisions, popular literature, and physiological tracts, Necro Citizenship explores how rituals of inclusion and belonging have generated alienation and dispossession. Castronovo contends that citizenship does violence to bodies, especially those of blacks, women, and workers. “Necro ideology,” he argues, supplied citizens with the means to think about slavery, economic powerlessness, or social injustice as eternal questions, beyond the scope of politics or critique. By obsessing on sleepwalkers, drowned women, and other corpses, necro ideology fostered a collective demand for an abstract even antidemocratic sense of freedom. Examining issues involving the occult, white sexuality, ghosts, and suicide in conjunction with readings of Harriet Jacobs, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Frances Harper, Necro Citizenship successfully demonstrates why Patrick Henry's “give me liberty or give me death” has resonated so strongly in the American imagination.
Since the nineteenth century, ideas centered on the individual, on Emersonian self-reliance, and on the right of the individual to the pursuit of happiness have had a tremendous presence in the United States—and even more so after the Reagan era. But has this presence been for the good of all? In Negative Liberties Cyrus R. K. Patell revises important ideas in the debate about individualism and the political theory of liberalism. He does so by adding two new voices to the current discussion—Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon—to examine the different ways in which their writings embody, engage, and critique the official narrative generated by U.S. liberal ideology. Pynchon and Morrison reveal the official narrative of individualism as encompassing a complex structure of contradiction held in abeyance. This narrative imagines that the goals of the individual are not at odds with the goals of the family or society and in fact obscures the existence of an unholy truce between individual liberty and forms of oppression. By bringing these two fiction writers into a discourse dominated by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Isaiah Berlin, John Rawls, George Kateb, Robert Bellah, and Michael Sandel, Patell unmasks the ways in which contemporary U.S. culture has not fully shed the oppressive patterns of reasoning handed down by the slaveholding culture from which American individualism emerged. With its interdisciplinary approach, Negative Liberties will appeal to students and scholars of American literature, culture, sociology, and politics.
For a half century following the end of World War II, the seemingly permanent cold war provided the United States with an organizing logic that governed nearly every aspect of American society and culture, giving rise to an unwavering belief in the nation's exceptionalism in global affairs and world history. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, this cold war paradigm was replaced by a series of new ideological narratives that ultimately resulted in the establishment of another potentially endless war: the global war on terror.
In The New American Exceptionalism, pioneering scholar Donald E. Pease traces the evolution of these state fantasies and shows how they have shaped U.S. national identity since the end of the cold war, uncovering the ideological and cultural work required to convince Americans to surrender their civil liberties in exchange for the illusion of security. His argument follows the chronology of the transitions between paradigms from the inauguration of the New World Order under George H. W. Bush to the homeland security state that George W. Bush's administration installed in the wake of 9/11. Providing clear and convincing arguments about how the concept of American exceptionalism was reformulated and redeployed in this era, Pease examines a wide range of cultural works and political spectacles, including the exorcism of the Vietnam syndrome through victory in the Persian Gulf War and the creation of Islamic extremism as an official state enemy.
At the same time, Pease notes that state fantasies cannot altogether conceal the inconsistencies they mask, showing how such events as the revelations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and the exposure of government incompetence after Hurricane Katrina opened fissures in the myth of exceptionalism, allowing Barack Obama to challenge the homeland security paradigm with an alternative state fantasy that privileges fairness, inclusion, and justice.
Passing refers to the process whereby a person of one race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation adopts the guise of another. Historically, this has often involved black slaves passing as white in order to gain their freedom. More generally, it has served as a way for women and people of color to access male or white privilege. In their examination of this practice of crossing boundaries, the contributors to this volume offer a unique perspective for studying the construction and meaning of personal and cultural identities. These essays consider a wide range of texts and moments from colonial times to the present that raise significant questions about the political motivations inherent in the origins and maintenance of identity categories and boundaries. Through discussions of such literary works as Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, The Autobiography of an Ex–Coloured Man, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Hidden Hand, Black Like Me, and Giovanni’s Room, the authors examine issues of power and privilege and ways in which passing might challenge the often rigid structures of identity politics. Their interrogation of the semiotics of behavior, dress, language, and the body itself contributes significantly to an understanding of national, racial, gender, and sexual identity in American literature and culture. Contextualizing and building on the theoretical work of such scholars as Judith Butler, Diana Fuss, Marjorie Garber, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Passing and the Fictions of Identity will be of value to students and scholars working in the areas of race, gender, and identity theory, as well as U.S. history and literature.
Contributors. Martha Cutter, Katharine Nicholson Ings, Samira Kawash, Adrian Piper, Valerie Rohy, Marion Rust, Julia Stern, Gayle Wald, Ellen M. Weinauer, Elizabeth Young
Stacey Margolis rethinks a key chapter in American literary history, challenging the idea that nineteenth-century American culture was dominated by an ideology of privacy that defined subjects in terms of their intentions and desires. She reveals how writers from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Henry James depicted a world in which characters could only be understood—and, more importantly, could only understand themselves—through their public actions. She argues that the social issues that nineteenth-century novelists analyzed—including race, sexuality, the market, and the law—formed integral parts of a broader cultural shift toward understanding individuals not according to their feelings, desires, or intentions, but rather in light of the various inevitable traces they left on the world.
Margolis provides readings of fiction by Hawthorne and James as well as Susan Warner, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, and Pauline Hopkins. In these writers’ works, she traces a distinctive novelistic tradition that viewed social developments—such as changes in political partisanship and childhood education and the rise of new politico-legal forms like negligence law—as means for understanding how individuals were shaped by their interactions with society. The Public Life of Privacy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature adds a new level of complexity to understandings of nineteenth-century American culture by illuminating a literary tradition full of accidents, mistakes, and unintended consequences—one in which feelings and desires were often overshadowed by all that was external to the self.
Publishing the Family
June Howard Duke University Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3545.H96H69 2001 | Dewey Decimal 813.52
In Publishing the Family June Howard turns a study of the collaborative novel The Whole Family into a lens through which to examine American literature and culture at the beginning of the twentieth century. Striving to do equal justice to historical particulars and the broad horizons of social change, Howard reconsiders such categories of analysis as authorship, genre, and periodization. In the process, she offers a new method for cultural studies and American studies at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Publishing the Family describes the sources and controversial outcome of a fascinating literary experiment. Howard embeds the story of The Whole Family in the story of Harper & Brothers’ powerful and pervasive presence in American cultural life, treating the publisher, in effect, as an author. Each chapter of Publishing the Family casts light on some aspect of life in the United States at a moment that arguably marked the beginning of our own era. Howard revises common views of the turn-of-the-century literary marketplace and discusses the perceived crisis in the family as well as the popular and expert discourses that emerged to remedy it. She also demonstrates how creative women like Bazar editor Elizabeth Jordan blended their own ideas about the “New Woman” with traditional values. Howard places these analyses in the framework of far-reaching historical changes, such as the transformation of the public meaning of emotion and “sentimentality.” Taken together, the chapters in Publishing the Family show how profoundly the modern mapping of social life relies on boundaries between family and business, culture and commerce, which The Whole Family and Publishing the Family constantly unsettle. Publishing the Family will interest students and scholars of American history, literature, and culture, as well as those studying gender, sexuality, and the family.
In Racism and Cultural Studies E. San Juan Jr. offers a historical-materialist critique of practices in multiculturalism and cultural studies. Rejecting contemporary theories of inclusion as affirmations of the capitalist status quo, San Juan envisions a future of politically equal and economically empowered citizens through the democratization of power and the socialization of property. Calling U.S. nationalism the new “opium of the masses,” he argues that U.S. nationalism is where racist ideas and practices are formed, refined, and reproduced as common sense and consensus. Individual chapters engage the themes of ethnicity versus racism, gender inequality, sexuality, and the politics of identity configured with the discourse of postcoloniality and postmodernism. Questions of institutional racism, social justice, democratization, and international power relations between the center and the periphery are explored and analyzed. San Juan fashions a critique of dominant disciplinary approaches in the humanities and social sciences and contends that “the racism question” functions as a catalyst and point of departure for cultural critiques based on a radical democratic vision. He also asks urgent questions regarding globalization and the future of socialist transformation of “third world” peoples and others who face oppression. As one of the most notable cultural theorists in the United States today, San Juan presents a provocative challenge to the academy and other disciplinary institutions. His intervention will surely compel the attention of all engaged in intellectual exchanges where race/ethnicity serves as an urgent focus of concern.
Raising the Dead is a groundbreaking, interdisciplinary exploration of death’s relation to subjectivity in twentieth-century American literature and culture. Sharon Patricia Holland contends that black subjectivity in particular is connected intimately to death. For Holland, travelling through “the space of death” gives us, as cultural readers, a nuanced and appropriate metaphor for understanding what is at stake when bodies, discourses, and communities collide. Holland argues that the presence of blacks, Native Americans, women, queers, and other “minorities” in society is, like death, “almost unspeakable.” She gives voice to—or raises—the dead through her examination of works such as the movie Menace II Society, Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits, and the work of the all-white, male, feminist hip-hop band Consolidated. In challenging established methods of literary investigation by putting often-disparate voices in dialogue with each other, Holland forges connections among African-American literature and culture, queer and feminist theory. Raising the Dead will be of interest to students and scholars of American culture, African-American literature, literary theory, gender studies, queer theory, and cultural studies.
Holden Caulfield, the beat writers, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and James Dean—these and other avatars of youthful rebellion were much more than entertainment. As Leerom Medovoi shows, they were often embraced and hotly debated at the dawn of the Cold War era because they stood for dissent and defiance at a time when the ideological production of the United States as leader of the “free world” required emancipatory figures who could represent America’s geopolitical claims. Medovoi argues that the “bad boy” became a guarantor of the country’s anti-authoritarian, democratic self-image: a kindred spirit to the freedom-seeking nations of the rapidly decolonizing third world and a counterpoint to the repressive conformity attributed to both the Soviet Union abroad and America’s burgeoning suburbs at home.
Alongside the young rebel, the contemporary concept of identity emerged in the 1950s. It was in that decade that “identity” was first used to define collective selves in the politicized manner that is recognizable today: in terms such as “national identity” and “racial identity.” Medovoi traces the rapid absorption of identity themes across many facets of postwar American culture, including beat literature, the young adult novel, the Hollywood teen film, early rock ‘n’ roll, black drama, and “bad girl” narratives. He demonstrates that youth culture especially began to exhibit telltale motifs of teen, racial, sexual, gender, and generational revolt that would burst into political prominence during the ensuing decades, bequeathing to the progressive wing of contemporary American political culture a potent but ambiguous legacy of identity politics.
Challenging the standard periodization of American literary history, Reconstituting the American Renaissance reinterprets the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman and the relationship of these two authors to each other. Jay Grossman argues that issues of political representation—involving vexed questions of who shall speak and for whom—lie at the heart of American political and literary discourse from the revolutionary era through the Civil War. By taking the mid-nineteenth-century period, traditionally understood as marking the advent of literary writing in the United States, and restoring to it the ways in which Emerson and Whitman engaged with eighteenth-century controversies, rhetorics, and languages about political representation, Grossman departs significantly from arguments that have traditionally separated American writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Reconstituting the American Renaissance describes how Emerson and Whitman came into the period of their greatest productivity with different conceptions of the functions and political efficacy of the word in the world. It challenges Emerson’s position as Whitman’s necessary precursor and offers a cultural history that emphasizes the two writers’ differences in social class, cultural experience, and political perspective. In their writings between 1830 and 1855, the book finds contrasting conceptions of the relations between the “representative man” and the constituencies to whom, and for whom, he speaks. Reconstituting the American Renaissance opens up the canonical relationship between Emerson and Whitman and multiplies the historical and discursive contexts for understanding their published and unpublished works.
In lucid narrative prose, Sean Kicummah Teuton studies the stirring literature of “Red Power,” an era of Native American organizing that began in 1969 and expanded into the 1970s. Teuton challenges the claim that Red Power thinking relied on romantic longings for a pure Indigenous past and culture. He shows instead that the movement engaged historical memory and oral tradition to produce more enabling knowledge of American Indian lives and possibilities. Looking to the era’s moments and literature, he develops an alternative, “tribal realist” critical perspective to allow for more nuanced analyses of Native writing. In this approach, “knowledge” is not the unattainable product of disinterested observation. Rather it is the achievement of communally mediated, self-reflexive work openly engaged with the world, and as such it is revisable. For this tribal realist position, Teuton enlarges the concepts of Indigenous identity and tribal experience as intertwined sources of insight into a shared world.
While engaging a wide spectrum of Native American writing, Teuton focuses on three of the most canonized and, he contends, most misread novels of the era—N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1968), James Welch’s Winter in the Blood (1974), and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony (1977). Through his readings, he demonstrates the utility of tribal realism as an interpretive framework to explain social transformations in Indian Country during the Red Power era and today. Such transformations, Teuton maintains, were forged through a process of political awakening that grew from Indians’ rethought experience with tribal lands and oral traditions, the body and imprisonment, in literature and in life.
This volume is the outcome of a transatlantic conversation on the topic “Transnational America,” in which more than sixty scholars from universities in the United States and Germany gathered to assess the historical significance of and examine the academic prospects for the “transnational turn” in American studies. This development has brought about the most significant re-imagining of the field since its inception. The “transnational” has subsumed competing spatial and temporal orientations to the subject and has dismantled the foundational tenets and premises informing the methodology, periodization, pedagogy, and geographical locations of U.S. American studies, but transnational American studies scholars have not yet provided a coherent portrait of their field. This volume constitutes an effort to produce this needed portrait. The editors have gathered work from a host of senior and up-and-coming Americanists to compile a field-defining project that will influence both scholars and students of American studies for many years to come.
Throughout the era of the Cold War a consensus reigned as to what constituted the great works of American literature. Yet as scholars have increasingly shown, and as this volume unmistakably demonstrates, that consensus was built upon the repression of the voices and historical contexts of subordinated social groups as well as literary works themselves, works both outside and within the traditional canon. This book is an effort to recover those lost voices. Engaging New Historicist, neo-Marxist, poststructuralist, and other literary practices, this volume marks important shifts in the organizing principles and self-understanding of the field of American Studies. Originally published as a special issue of boundary 2, the essays gathered here discuss writers as diverse as Kate Chopin, Frederick Douglass, Emerson, Melville, W. D. Howells, Henry James, W. E. B. DuBois, and Mark Twain, plus the historical figure John Brown. Two major sections devoted to the theory of romance and to cultural-historical analyses emphasize the political perspective of "New Americanist" literary and cultural study.
Contributors. William E. Cain, Wai-chee Dimock, Howard Horwitz, Gregory S. Jay, Steven Mailloux, John McWilliams, Susan Mizruchi, Donald E. Pease, Ivy Schweitzer, Priscilla Wald, Michael Warner, Robert Weimann
Stand-Up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America is the first study of stand-up comedy as a form of art. John Limon appreciates and analyzes the specific practice of stand-up itself, moving beyond theories of the joke, of the comic, and of comedy in general to read stand-up through the lens of literary and cultural theory. Limon argues that stand-up is an artform best defined by its fascination with the abject, Julia Kristeva’s term for those aspects of oneself that are obnoxious to one’s sense of identity but that are nevertheless—like blood, feces, or urine—impossible to jettison once and for all. All of a comedian’s life, Limon asserts, is abject in this sense. Limon begins with stand-up comics in the 1950s and 1960s—Lenny Bruce, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Elaine May—when the norm of the profession was the Jewish, male, heterosexual comedian. He then moves toward the present with analyses of David Letterman, Richard Pryor, Ellen DeGeneres, and Paula Poundstone. Limon incorporates feminist, race, and queer theories to argue that the “comedification” of America—stand-up comedy’s escape from its narrow origins—involves the repossession by black, female, queer, and Protestant comedians of what was black, female, queer, yet suburbanizing in Jewish, male, heterosexual comedy. Limon’s formal definition of stand-up as abject art thus hinges on his claim that the great American comedians of the 1950s and 1960s located their comedy at the place (which would have been conceived in 1960 as a location between New York City or Chicago and their suburbs) where body is thrown off for the mind and materiality is thrown off for abstraction—at the place, that is, where American abjection has always found its home. As the first study of its kind, Stand-Up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America will appeal to a wide audience including those interested in cultural studies, Jewish studies, gender and queer theory.
A founder of U.S.-Mexico border studies, José David Saldívar is a leading figure in efforts to expand the scope of American studies. In Trans-Americanity, he advances that critical project by arguing for a transnational, antinational, and "outernational" paradigm for American studies. Saldívar urges Americanists to adopt a world-system scale of analysis. "Americanity as a Concept," an essay by the Peruvian sociologist Aníbal Quijano and Immanuel Wallerstein, the architect of world-systems analysis, serves as a theoretical touchstone for Trans-Americanity. In conversation not only with Quijano and Wallerstein, but also with the theorists Gloria Anzaldúa, John Beverley, Ranajit Guha, Walter D. Mignolo, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Saldívar explores questions of the subaltern and the coloniality of power, emphasizing their location within postcolonial studies. Analyzing the work of José Martí, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy, and many other writers, he addresses concerns such as the "unspeakable" in subalternized African American, U.S. Latino and Latina, Cuban, and South Asian literature; the rhetorical form of postcolonial narratives; and constructions of subalternized identities. In Trans-Americanity, Saldívar demonstrates and makes the case for Americanist critique based on a globalized study of the Américas.
In Translating Empire, Laura Lomas uncovers how late nineteenth-century Latino migrant writers developed a prescient critique of U.S. imperialism, one that prefigures many of the concerns about empire, race, and postcolonial subjectivity animating American studies today. During the 1880s and early 1890s, the Cuban journalist, poet, and revolutionary José Martí and other Latino migrants living in New York City translated North American literary and cultural texts into Spanish. Lomas reads the canonical literature and popular culture of the United States in the Gilded Age through the eyes of Martí and his fellow editors, activists, orators, and poets. In doing so, she reveals how, in the process of translating Anglo-American culture into a Latino-American idiom, the Latino migrant writers invented a modernist aesthetics to criticize U.S. expansionism and expose Anglo stereotypes of Latin Americans.
Lomas challenges longstanding conceptions about Martí through readings of neglected texts and reinterpretations of his major essays. Against the customary view that emphasizes his strong identification with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, the author demonstrates that over several years, Martí actually distanced himself from Emerson’s ideas and conveyed alarm at Whitman’s expansionist politics. She questions the association of Martí with pan-Americanism, pointing out that in the 1880s, the Cuban journalist warned against foreign geopolitical influence imposed through ostensibly friendly meetings and the promotion of hemispheric peace and “free” trade. Lomas finds Martí undermining racialized and sexualized representations of America in his interpretations of Buffalo Bill and other rituals of westward expansion, in his self-published translation of Helen Hunt Jackson’s popular romance novel Ramona, and in his comments on writing that stereotyped Latino/a Americans as inherently unfit for self-government. With Translating Empire, Lomas recasts the contemporary practice of American studies in light of Martí’s late-nineteenth-century radical decolonizing project.
Arguing that limited nationalist perspectives have circumscribed the critical scope of American Studies scholarship, Virtual Americas advocates a comparative criticism that illuminates the work of well-known literary figures by defamiliarizing it—placing it in unfamiliar contexts. Paul Giles looks at a number of canonical nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers by focusing on their interactions with British culture. He demonstrates how American authors from Herman Melville to Thomas Pynchon have been compulsively drawn to negotiate with British culture so that their nationalist agendas have emerged, paradoxically, through transatlantic dialogues. Virtual Americas ultimately suggests that conceptions of national identity in both the United States and Britain have emerged through engagement with—and, often, deliberate exclusion of—ideas and imagery emanating from across the Atlantic.
Throughout Virtual Americas Giles focuses on specific examples of transatlantic cultural interactions such as Frederick Douglass’s experiences and reputation in England; Herman Melville’s satirizing fictions of U.S. and British nationalism; and Vladimir Nabokov’s critique of European high culture and American popular culture in Lolita. He also reverses his perspective, looking at the representation of San Francisco in the work of British-born poet Thom Gunn and Sylvia Plath’s poetic responses to England. Giles develops his theory about the need to defamiliarize the study of American literature by considering the cultural legacy of Surrealism as an alternative genealogy for American Studies and by examining the transatlantic dimensions of writers such as Henry James and Robert Frost in the context of Surrealism.
In Waves of Decolonization, David Luis-Brown reveals how between the 1880s and the 1930s, writer-activists in Cuba, Mexico, and the United States developed narratives and theories of decolonization, of full freedom and equality in the shadow of empire. They did so decades before the decolonization of Africa and Asia in the mid-twentieth century. Analyzing the work of nationalist leaders, novelists, and social scientists, including W. E. B. Du Bois, José Martí, Claude McKay, Luis-Brown brings together an array of thinkers who linked local struggles against racial oppression and imperialism to similar struggles in other nations. With discourses and practices of hemispheric citizenship, writers in the Americas broadened conventional conceptions of rights to redress their loss under the expanding United States empire. In focusing on the transnational production of the national in the wake of U.S. imperialism, Luis-Brown emphasizes the need for expanding the linguistic and national boundaries of U.S. American culture and history.
Luis-Brown traces unfolding narratives of decolonization across a broad range of texts. He explores how Martí and Du Bois, known as the founders of Cuban and black nationalisms, came to develop anticolonial discourses that cut across racial and national divides. He illuminates how cross-fertilizations among the Harlem Renaissance, Mexican indigenismo, and Cuban negrismo in the 1920s contributed to broader efforts to keep pace with transformations unleashed by ongoing conflicts over imperialism, and he considers how those transformations were explored in novels by McKay of Jamaica, Jesús Masdeu of Cuba, and Miguel Ángel Menéndez of Mexico. Focusing on ethnography’s uneven contributions to decolonization, he investigates how Manuel Gamio, a Mexican anthropologist, and Zora Neale Hurston each adapted metropolitan social science for use by writers from the racialized periphery.
Honored in his own time as one of the most prominent Indian public intellectuals, Henry Roe Cloud (c. 1884–1950) fought to open higher education to Indians. Joel Pfister’s extensive archival research establishes the historical significance of key chapters in the Winnebago’s remarkable life. Roe Cloud was the first Indian to receive undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale University, where he was elected to the prestigious and intellectual Elihu Club. Pfister compares Roe Cloud’s experience to that of other “college Indians” and also to African Americans such as W. E. B. Du Bois. Roe Cloud helped launch the Society of American Indians, graduated from Auburn seminary, founded a preparatory school for Indians, and served as the first Indian superintendent of the Haskell Institute (forerunner of Haskell Indian Nations University). He also worked under John Collier at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where he was a catalyst for the Indian New Deal.
Roe Cloud’s white-collar activism was entwined with the Progressive Era formation of an Indian professional and managerial class, a Native “talented tenth,” whose members strategically used their contingent entry into arenas of white social, intellectual, and political power on behalf of Indians without such access. His Yale training provided a cross-cultural education in class-structured emotions and individuality. While at Yale, Roe Cloud was informally adopted by a white missionary couple. Through them he was schooled in upper-middle-class sentimentality and incentives. He also learned how interracial romance could jeopardize Indian acceptance into their class. Roe Cloud expanded the range of what modern Indians could aspire to and achieve.